It was only a matter of time until more veteran actors tried on the Liam Neeson Taken formula. In The Foreigner we have Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan in an action thriller with the former taking on the revengeful role, and the film is precisely what you expect it to be: passably fun, but ultimately mediocre fare.

The film is directed by Martin Campbell who has earlier made fun films like Goldeneye and Casino Royale and he casts Chan and Brosnan against their type. Chan, not smiling even once in the film plays Quan, a father who loses his daughter in a terror attack in London. Overwhelmed with grief and anger he decides to find the people responsible for this attack and contacts with the IRA-connected Liam (Brosnan) for help. When Liam seems reluctant to help and seems to be hiding something, Quan naturally goes Liam Neeson on him with his ‘set of skills’.

Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan in The Foreigner.

It’s not hard to guess how the film progresses and how it handles the issue of immigrants (yup it’s very heavy handed).

The surprising part is that the plot is actually quite dense, throwing in multiple layers of information at any given time, giving the movie a veneer of being much more sophisticated and intelligent piece of cinema than it actually is. The problem is the plot threads are thinly explored as is the commentary on the IRA, which seems totally alien to those not in the know and insipid to those aware of the issue.

It’s balance that director Campbell fails to strike – because it’s not wholly clear what the film actually is.

It’s an action movie that suppresses the action in servitude of offering a ‘different’ Jackie Chan. It’s a political thriller than suppresses the politics because such heavy themes would not make the film entertaining. It’s also an emotional drama of a father wanting to find closure after the death of his daughter, but that angle is treated with hackneyed melodrama and then forgotten. At least the Taken movies don’t hold back on the ridiculousness – and one wishes this film went the whole hog with the cheese, ham and action. This is especially apparent during the two moments when the film explodes into visceral action, and you wonder why the rest of the film isn’t as fun.

The music by Cliff Martinez and David Tattersall’s cinematography are noteworthy, but the stereotypical nature of Brosnan’s Irish character is unintentionally fun – just because he’s Irish he drinks and swears a lot. Die hard fans of Chan (who is still in such fine martial arts form) and Brosnan will probably enjoy this film, but there’s little cinematic meat for others to sink their teeth into. The ‘disposable’ nature of the film is ultimately frustrating because this is just another entry in a year dominated by a string of trashy forgettable movies

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