Kyle J. Steenblik

The Foreigner Brings Solid yet Tepid Action [Review]

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The Foreigner
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Screenplay by: David Marconi
Based on The Chinaman by Stephen Leather
Starring: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan
Running time 113 minutes
Production company: The Fyzz Facility, Sparkle Roll Media, Huayi Brothers Pictures, Wanda Pictures
Distributed by STX films
Release date: 13 October 2017
Rated R for violence, language and some sexual material

3 stars out of 5

The story of humble London businessman Quan (Chan), whose long-buried past erupts in a revenge-fueled vendetta when the only person left for him to love – his teenage daughter – is taken from him in a senseless act of politically-motivated terrorism. In his relentless search for the identity of the terrorists, Quan is forced into a cat- and-mouse conflict with a British government official (Brosnan), whose own past may hold clues to the identities of the elusive killers.

The Foreigner is not a bad film, nor is it a very good film, it is a solid film that simply didn’t reach the heights needed to be the film it was trying to become.  It could be that this film is the product of another time, when politically motivated action thrillers were deliberate, thick with exposition and plot.  The audience has changed, the genera has evolved, what was once gripping is now business as usual.

The Foreigner is such a slow burning action thriller that I had to check the film’s description to be sure I was classifying it correctly.  Is an action thriller that never crescendos really an action thriller?  I can’t help but feel like the ‘action’ genera label was attached to the film when they cast Jackie Chan even though the ‘drama’ genera label may be a better fit.

Labels aside there is some heft to The Foreigner, and some things that work quite well.  Chief among the good is Jackie Chan, who turned in what might be the strongest performance of his career.  Even at this age he does not appear to have slowed down or missed a step as his fight scenes are still just as exciting and dynamic as they ever were.  But the raw emotional power of his performance, even in his most reserved moments gave me pause enough to reconsider how I thought about him as an actor and performer.

If every performance had been on this same level the film would not have felt slightly uneven and dissonant.  Especially Pierce Brosnan, whose ham-fisted scenery chewing was almost embarrassing to watch.  This points to the common factor in these deficiencies being director Martin Campbell, who seems to have approached this film as if he were directing a 90’s Tom Clancy film.  The messaging was muddled, and methodical pacing let any sense of urgency wither on the vine.  Any real sense of intrigue and tension was subsequently omitted to take accelerate the plot to the next point of action leaving the story feeling incomplete.  This could have easily been a stellar film, instead it is simply an average, mildly enjoyable chance to watch Jackie Chan make great art.

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