Review: The Foreigner

The Foreigner
6 10

PLOT: After a bomb planted by the IRA kills his daughter, a grieving father with a military background makes it his goal to find out who was responsible, a journey that will bring him face-to-face with a government official with old ties to the terrorist organization.

REVIEW: This is neither here nor there in terms of its quality, but it should be pointed out that THE FOREIGNER is not really the movie the ads are selling. I walked into it thinking it was a spin on the tired TAKEN formula, where an older gentleman, retired from his ass-kicking ways, is forced to call upon his special set of skills in order to exact justice on the bad guys who've hurt his family. And while that is partially true of THE FOREIGNER's plot, there is so much more going on in than that. If you walk in expecting an action extravaganza, you'll be surprised by how much of the film's runtime is spent in boardrooms and cottages, where heated political strategies and plots unfold between conniving individuals. The older ass-kicker is often sidelined in his own movie.

Sometimes I didn't mind this, because another TAKEN rip-off we do not need. THE FOREIGNER is a lot more convoluted than you might guess, but it also tests your patience with how long it takes to untangle its plot and navigate through its many supporting players. Directed by veteran Martin Campbell (GOLDENEYE, CASINO ROYALE), THE FOREIGNER gave me mixed feelings often: I appreciated that it wasn't a cheesy knockoff, and yet after a while I yearned to see the movie come to life in a more superficial way. Just as I settled in for the smart movie, I felt a need for the dumber one to kick into gear.

The aforementioned older gentleman in this case is a mysterious man named Quan; he is played by Jackie Chan, who looks every bit his 63 years of age and it works well here. Wearing a tired, frequently haggard expression throughout, this isn't the fun-loving Chan we're used to, and his performance is actually quite moving at times. Quan certainly has a lot to be sad about. At the beginning of the film, he is front row when a bomb detonated by an upstart faction of the IRA goes off on a London street and kills his young daughter. Already a widower and having lost another child years earlier, Quan moves swiftly into action to find the people responsible. The police are no help (are they ever?), but Quan doesn't need them to zero in on one particular individual whom he thinks can help him: an Irish government official named Hennessey (Pierce Brosnan) who has past ties to the IRA and might know something about the bombers. After being rebuffed by the shady politician, Quan makes it his duty to stealthily stalk and harass him until he gives up the names.

Once Brosnan is introduced, the movie basically belongs to him. He has perhaps more screen time than Chan, and the story is more interested in his increasingly desperate maneuverings than anything else. Brosnan is excellent in the role: we see the roguish, charming man we remember as James Bond, but when the heat's on we see a more sinister and unseemly side. Frankly, Brosnan's turn as Hennessey gave me very strong Bryan Cranston-as-Walter White vibes throughout. Hennessey is the more interesting character of the two by far, as the movie isn't really concerned with where Quan comes from and where he obtained his training (in fact, the movie barely explains his past, but it's mentioned in passing that we was part of the special forces in the U.S.).

While Quan sneakily sets about destroying Hennessey's property (he's pretty adept at setting bombs himself), Hennessey scrambles to find out who was really responsible for the bombing, and THE FOREIGNER spends a lot of time with Hennessey's many cohorts, following several subplots and tangents that we struggle to care much about. The real villains of the movie are a barely-defined lot, and we're also forced to meet Hennessey's scheming wife, his mistress, his nephew, random politicians, the police, the list goes on. Most of these supporting players are unremarkable; we find that we'd rather get to know Quan - nicknamed "the Chinaman" by Hennessey (also the title of the book this is based on) - than these sordid folks, since most of these people simply aren't compelling enough to warrant all the time we spend with them.

The story finds Quan camped out in the woods for most of the second half, doing a Rambo thing while Hennessey's thugs try to smoke him out. The action during these sections is adequate if unremarkable, with Chan showing he's still got it when it comes to beating the stuffing out of henchmen. The fight choreography isn't as wildly elaborate as it usually is with a Chan picture - the actor really looks like he's getting hurt this time around - but it's still fun to watch Chan in motion.

From an acting standpoint, Chan gets across what he needs to, and is never less than convincing as a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. But it's definitely Brosnan who steals the show, and while much of what his character says and does is by-the-numbers, the actor invests in every scene and grabs our attention throughout. THE FOREIGNER sees a couple of up-there actors reminding us why we've been drawn to them for decades, so fans of either - or both - will still have plenty of reason to check this one out.

Source: JoBlo.com



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