The Foreigner is Jackie Chan’s first return to U.S. theaters since 2010’s remake of The Karate Kid. I’ve been a fan of the clown prince of kung-fu since the mid-90’s when I saw Drunken Master 2 for the first time. That film opened my eyes to a level of martial arts choreography that I didn’t know was possible. I’ve been watching his action-comedies ever since. I was even a founding member of his USA fan club. (Enjoy this time capsule.) So this movie came out of left field for me.
Old sad Jackie? Was he taking up the broken hero in search of vengeance routine? Yep. Pretty much. The only twist here is that the film is so solidly put together that it’s hard to critique. Director Martin Campbell, manages to take a rather mediocre script and film the hell out of it. He plays the beats in ways that defy our expectations. It’s all things, small and large – like which weapon will Jackie use? Who’s really bad and who’s really in control? It’s really quite a professional job, but it’s not enough to save the uninspired story.
Who’s the star of this film?
After sitting through enough title cards to ask, “just how many production companies does it take to make a Jackie Chan film?” I got my answer. None. This isn’t a Jackie Chan film. It plays like a pseudo-political, action-thriller. The Foreigner featured an attention getting opening and then proceeded to bore me with conversation. After about 35mins, Jackie finally took action and the film picked up in pace. Surprisingly, it morphed into a Pierce Brosnan picture co-staring Jackie. Brosnan is quite good as a UK Government representative with ties to the Irish Republican Army. In fact, he seems to be from another film entirely. Clearly, he was hired because of his working relationship with this director on the Bond films. He adds class to a movie in which none was expected.
Chan as character actor.
As we progress, Jackie becomes a Rambo/Macgyver boogieman rather than the usual action hero. He even plays it sorta crazy. It’s a different kind of performance for him. He’s covered in soot and riding the line between righteous hero and deranged stalker. His acting is on point, but is that what we want from him? He manages to mix it up in a few fights with acrobatics and kung-fu, but it’s dialed back in this Western feeling production. The realism is such that people who get punched fall down. They don’t spring back up for five minutes of fight choreography. That can be refreshing to see, but I wanted the man’s specialty – humorous fight scenes.
Why so serious?
Ultimately, the ending is unsatisfying because we haven’t spent enough time with Jackie’s character. Meanwhile, Brosnan gets a fully developed arc. The film is a competent affair. However, there’s nothing new being tried and the movie wastes the world’s most talented physical comedian in a role better suited to Bruce Willis. That’s the cardinal sin here. There’s no humor at all in the film. Jackie is never funny. Neither is anybody or anything else. That absence coupled with the general predictability of the outcome makes it a dud. While the film is far better made than one would asume, it’s not going to make anyone’s top ten list.