The Foreigner (2017) Review: Brutally Well Balanced
Before terror strikes the cinema, there’s nothing I’d like to see more than a hard-hitting revenge story, mixed with a tense political drama. Good thing this week saw the release of ‘The Foreigner’. A hard-hitting revenge story mixed with a tense political drama, starring Jackie Chan. Yes, Jackie Chan, 63 years old, is blazing through the silver screen in the way most men decades younger than him couldn’t even dare. Is it a good film, or is it mostly embarrassing for the old martial artist? Thankfully, it’s entirely the former.
After a terrorist attack in London takes the life of innocents, Quan Ngoc Minh, played by Jackie Chan, cares only about one. The daughter caught in the attack. Consumed by rage and a penchant for vengeance, Quan decides he can’t wait for bureaucracy. He has to take matters into his own hands. God help anyone who gets in his way. A privilege that belongs to Pierce Brosnan’s Liam Hennessy, who already has his hands full dealing with the fallout of a terrorist attack in London.
That’s where ‘The Foreigner’ takes an unexpected turn. Most might be expecting ‘Taken’ with Jackie Chan, but in fact, Chan’s journey of vengeance only takes up about a half of screen time. A surprising amount of the story is spent unraveling the mystery the movie from a political perspective. When you go in hoping to watch Jackie Chan inflict punishment, Pierce Brosnan navigating the perils of politics is a not a good consolation prize.
Interestingly enough? Both those stories work. The film takes its time developing these two central characters so much, it often feels like you’re watching two films. Both of them entertaining. The wonder is, neither stories feel underserved by the existence of the other. Martin Cambell expertly finds a balance between political thriller and action drama. Someone should get him to direct a Bond film.
The action is not present throughout, and only enters the story when it makes the most sense. Because you’re not privy to a great amount of fighting, when you do get it, it’s all the more satisfying. That’s much like the fight scenes themselves, as the choreography is much more concerned with the impact of the blows, than how they happen. Most times this sytle lends itself to incoherence, but here, it worked. Everything is swift, sudden. It makes Chan feel like a force of nature you can’t stop. It’s also of note that Jackie Chan is delivering a great performance. Its a role that asks you to root for him of course, but he’s so good that the movie doesn’t have to try very hard to get you to.
‘The Foreigner’ isn’t perfect though. While there is a balance struck with the dual storyline, there’s a slight issue with pacing. It takes a while before both stories find their footing, and start to converge. I didn’t think this needed to be 2 hours long, and you certainly feel as though a good 20 minutes could’ve been cut down. The movie doesn’t over explain things per se, but it does feel like a situation where more could’ve been done with less.
Whether you’re grimacing at the pain suffered by Jackie’s victims, or biting your nails for the mystery to unfold, the result is the same. Tension. ‘The Foreigner’ has a lot on its plate, but manages to get through its arduous meal with aplomb. It’s a well acted, well directed, and infinitely compelling story. Chan and Brosnan deliver some of their best work yet.
Rating: Big Screen Watch