Review: The Foreigner (2017)


The Foreigner (2017)

Directed by: Martin Campbell | 113 minutes | action, crime | Actors: Jackie Chan, Katie Leung, Rufus Jones, Mark Tandy, John Cronin, Niall McNamee, Pierce Brosnan, Charlie Murphy, Orla Brady, Lia Williams, Michael McElhatton, David Pearse, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Tao Liu, Dermot Crowley, Sean Campion, Sean Gleeson, Ray Fearon, Thusitha Jayasundera

‘The Foreigner’ is based on Stephen Leather’s book ‘The Chinaman’ and largely follows the tried and true recipe of the classic revenge film. The story focuses primarily on London-based immigrant Quan Ngoc Minh (Jackie Chan). He has a past as a commando, but now runs a restaurant in the British capital. Until disaster strikes and his daughter is killed in a bomb attack carried out by IRA terrorists. Because the police show little decisiveness, Quan decides to go after the perpetrators himself to avenge the death of his daughter. The military skills he has acquired in his previous working life prove to be very useful in carrying out his retaliatory mission.

Jackie Chan is a living legend in Asia, but certainly also a well-known action hero in the West. Where most of his films have a light-hearted and dryly comic undertone, the Chinese portrays a deadly serious character in ‘The Foreigner’. And he does it surprisingly well. Chan acts well and convinces as the quiet, stiff and justice-seeking Quan Ngoc Minh. With few words and subtle facial expressions he knows how to make feelings such as sadness, doggedness and anger very tangible. Chan gives his role sufficient weight and substance to carry ‘The Foreigner’, a print that navigates between epic epic, action spectacle and political thriller. Although Chan was already over sixty when the film was shot, the martial arts star takes care of all the stunts herself.

The attempt to merge action, drama and politics in one film does not have a positive effect in ‘The Foreigner’. Director Martin Campbell, who previously directed the Bond films ‘GoldenEye’ and ‘Casino Royale’, sometimes doesn’t seem to know whether to focus on action or drama. This compromise does not always benefit the coherence of the whole, a shortcoming that is reinforced by the contrast between the exuberant, sometimes somewhat cartoonish-looking action and the serious, highly politicized message of the story. This last element also makes ‘The Foreigner’ unnecessarily complicated at times.

Those points of criticism do not detract from the fact that ‘The Foreigner’, certainly as an action film, still scores a satisfactory score. Chan convinces as a serious, sometimes even grim fighter and the story is realistic enough not to raise eyebrows. The print could probably have been stronger and more balanced if the makers had chosen more clearly for pure action and had been a little more frugal with dramatic and political story elements.

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