A solid, and serious, actioner, “The Foreigner” shows martial-arts legend Jackie Chan in a different light compared to many of his previous movies.
The movie is based on the Stephen Leather book “The Chinaman.” It’s a violent, serious story of revenge and deceit. You won’t find much of the light-heartedness we’ve come to expect from Chan’s characters in the past.
The situation is modern-day: A bomb explodes in London’s upscale Knightsbridge district. Apparently, it’s the work of a group that calls itself “the Authentic IRA.”
The deputy first ministry of Northern Island, Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan) appears to get a late start on the investigation — he has other things — namely a younger woman — on his mind. Now he hearkens back to his own past as a former member of the IRA but maintains he now wants to keep the peace.
Chan is Quan, whose daughter is killed in the bombing. He is inconsolable. He keeps asking the police the identity of the bombers. Leading the investigation is Commander Richard Bromley (Ray Fearon), who dismisses Quan and asked him not to come back because he is disrupting the work of his team.
But Quan persists. When he finds out that Hennessy is managing the Northern Ireland part of the investigation, Quan shows up to ask Hennessy who the bombers were … to no avail.
It’s then that Quan, who has special training that he puts to good use, sets in motion a kind of persuasion campaign … all he wants are the names. And of course bodies begin to pile up as Quan outsmarts everyone around him in his quest for the truth and revenge.
Chan delivers some wonderfully intense dramatic moments. In one sequence, he grieves in his daughter’s room in a brief but powerful moment that helps viewers understand his pain as he gazes mournfully at her belongings.
Brosnan is engaging as the conflicted, complex man who at first doesn’t comprehend how capable and intelligence Quan is. Ultimately, Hennessy finds himself so out-witted that he hires his nephew, who has special-forces training, to track the evasive Quan.
Martin Campbell deftly directed the enjoyable Bond film “Goldeneye,” which starred Brosnan in his first turn as Bond, and he helmed this movie, too. Its nicely paced tension continues to build, with a screenplay that has enough smarts to keep viewers guessing and realistic enough that they don’t need to suspend disbelief very often.
I have been a Chan fan for decades. It’s wonderful to see this side of him as a real actor, which is the main reason his other fans should see this movie, too.