Forget what the 1990’s taught us about Jackie Chan.
If everything you loved was taken from you, what would you do to get a hold of the people responsible? It’s a familiar story with a resurgence in popularity thanks to the ever-quotable Liam Neeson in “Taken.” However, “The Foreigner” takes the premise a step further and adds in a political sub-plot that raises the question, is there much of a difference between a corrupt government and a terrorist organization?
The film starts off quite literally with a bang thanks to an impressive and memorable terrorist attack sequence that targets a clothing boutique, immediately placing us in the sympathies of Quan’s (Jackie Chan) plight. At first, he is completely devastated. We find out that he has no other family, as his wife had died years before in labor. In his
grief, Quan visits the police station daily, even going so far as to bring his life savings in order to convince the police to work harder, or at the very least, give up the name of the suspects.
After receiving no help from the London police, Quan starts digging on his own. He finds out that those who have taken responsibility for the bombing are a new version of the IRA — the Authentic IRA. It doesn’t take long for Quan to find the name of Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), a politician with violent roots in the pre-Good Friday Agreement IRA, but who dedicated the latter half of his life to bettering the relations between Ireland and England. Due to Hennessy’s IRA past, Quan begins an explosive crusade to scare and threaten him until he reveals the names of the Authentic IRA members responsible for the bombing.
At this point, a very clear divide begins between two simultaneous plotlines. The first is Quan’s revenge against those who destroyed the little family he had left. The choreography of action is stunning and shows just how impressive Chan’s physicality is even in his 60s.
The second plot deals heavily with Irish/British politics, involving Hennessy working through his connections to secure political position in the form of pardons from IRA past members. While some of the twists and turns can get a little dizzying, one scene involving a face-to-face with Hennessy and another ex-IRA spells everything out. So if you missed anything leading up, it all gets sorted in a drawn-out scene that seems like the director didn’t believe the audience would be able to keep up. Another forces you to be on “Team Quan” after the audience is shown that this isn’t the first daughter Quan has lost, but his third. The first two were kidnapped, raped and murdered by Thai pirates.
The importance of this second plot really makes this film a political thriller rather than an action/revenge story. For those who were enticed by the trailer and general synopsis, the movie was sold as a straightforward revenge flick. The political angle is only made worse because the dated source material from the 1990’s meant many characters simply had to restate the history between the IRA and British government for those not paying attention in history class before they’d begin explaining the actions of their new attack.
While he isn’t doing the typical slapstick comedy many of us grew up with in the 1990’s and 2000’s with “Rush Hour” and “Shanghai Noon,” Chan is still as entertaining as ever to watch. And although the action is kept between Quan and various minions, his game of cat-and-mouse with Hennessy is truly a great deal of fun. The pasts of both men are never fully revealed, though each has seen war in its various forms, and each seems to know the lengths one must be prepared to go to achieve victory — and the true cost of the actions. ♦