Action & Adventure

The Foreigner

Year: 2017
Directed by: Martin Campbell 
Starring: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Michael McElhatton, Orla Brady.

WRITTEN BY CHRIS GELDERD

This 2017 action thriller, based on the 1992 novel ‘The Chinaman’ by Stephen Leather, is directed by Martin Campbell and stars Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Michael McElhatton, Liu Tao, Charlie Murphy and Orla Brady.

When Ngoc Minh Quan (Chan) loses his daughter in a terrorist attack in London, carried out by a group calling themselves the ‘Authentic IRA’, his world crumbles and he has nothing to live for except finding those responsible.

Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Liam Hennessy (Brosnan), a former IRA operative, condemns the bombing but has little knowledge of who is behind it. Quan makes Hennessy his target in extracting the information he knows is being kept from him.

Taking matters into his own hands, Quan begins to take Hennesy’s world apart by targeting his loved ones and his confidents in a dangerous game of cat and mouse, applying pressure to get to the source of the bombing. But the terrorist group is ready to hit their next target, and time is running out to stop them…

Take the world’s most ambitious and loved action star, add in the 5th James Bond actor and direct them by the man responsible for ‘GoldenEye’ and ‘Casino Royale’. Sound like a hoot? Well it is, but not for the reasons it could have been about 20 years ago.

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Director Martin Campbell, who knows how to direct well-paced and grounded action films, brings 63-year old Jackie Chan and 64-year old Pierce Brosnan together for a slow burning, gritty and tense political game of cat-and-mouse that proves two things: Jackie Chan can act far beyond breaking bones and falling off roof-tops, and Pierce Brosnan can act far beyond wearing a tuxedo and dancing on Greek islands.

There is thankfully little action in this film, and when there is, it’s contained and minimal and real. Yes, Chan does his thing by disarming knife and gun toting bad guys but he does it in a way you’d believe a former Vietnam special ops forces soldier would do. He is a father who has lost everything and isn’t afraid to kill or be killed in hunting down those responsible. And the best thing is there is no catering to Chan’s former audience wanting physical comedy as well as outrageous action. There is no comedy in this film, and Chan doesn’t gurn or prat-fall along the way; he hurts, he investigates and he takes revenge and he does it in a very calculating, cold and rather powerful way. This man can act.

Chan goes up against a few token Irish hitmen along the way (not all your typical “Irish terrorists” thanks to a complex and compelling story) but his main target is Brosnan’s First Minister. With a thinner frame and thinning grey hair and beard, he’s a spectre (see what I did there?) of his former James Bond days. But that was over a decade ago and he’s done with play-acting – now we’ve seen what Brosnan can really offer, and he does it here matching Chan with his cold and calculating and tense performance. Is he a villain? Is he an anti-hero? We can never be sure.

Both men have seen the effects of terror and war, and both have very different motivations and agendas, but both men can’t be right all the time. It’s this brilliant conflict between the two that doesn’t need them to be on screen constantly together, but it’s underlying and it is there in their individual scenes where tension escalates and emotion runs high as two men reach breaking point.

Filmed across London and Belfast, it’s a very simple narrative to follow and richly pictured with crisp Irish countryside and small towns mirrored with bustling London streets and the concrete jungle that is threatened by terror, a plot point all too relevant to audiences nowadays which makes for even stronger viewing.

Yes, this doesn’t break the mould for your usual political thrillers, and you probably suspect how it will end and what outcome will face the main characters, but it’s all about tight direction that nurtures and allows a character driven piece to flourish by two brilliant actors of their generation.

A Chinese martial arts legend up against a smooth, smouldering Irish icon? Sounds crazy on paper but it does nothing but work for this gripping ride.

Chris’ Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

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