by Joseph Shelton
Remember when they still made action movies that weren’t all so high concept (and budget)? That is to say, remember the action thrillers they made before the only bankable genre in Hollywood was superhero schlock? Before the endless clash of giant robots, aliens and superhumans drowned out all of the subtler, slightly more grounded fare?
And when I say subtle, don’t get me wrong, because when I say subtle I mean the kinds of films like Clear and Present Danger, in which Harrison Ford and Willem Defoe shoot a lot of people with rocket launchers, or Patriot Games, in which Harrison Ford shoots a lot of people with pistols and hits one guy on the head with an anchor. But those films, action-packed as they were, were grounded in (something approaching) real-world geo-politics, not cosmic gloves or flying metal suits.
Enter The Foreigner, 2017’s closest thing to those earlier thrillers, based as it is on a 1992 novel with the now-regrettable title of The Chinaman and starring two stalwarts of ‘80s and ‘90s action as its pro-and antagonists: Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan.
Chan is spry as ever as Quan Ngoc Minh, a Chinese agent who served as Vietcong special forces before losing most of his family. Then he loses his daughter too, in what appears to be an IRA bombing, years later. Of course, he embarks on a journey of revenge that will require him to use all those skills he used to have and will pit him against Liam Hennessy (Brosnan), a former IRA fighter turned politician
who may know more than he lets on. By the end there will have been the requisite double crosses, kung fu and standoffs. But there will also have been some of the best acting of Brosnan and Chan’s careers.
That such quality performances should come in a decent action film late in their careers only makes The Foreigner even more good for you and fun. It manages to provide a slick, thrilling alternative to the action-film zeitgeist, but it also manages to be, you know, pretty clever. Reasonably clever, anyway.
But here’s all that really matters: Jackie Chan, at 63, kicks as much ass as he ever has, pulling off moves that most of us will never do at any age.
So when you get tired of superhero flicks and feel like something a bit (and really, JUST a bit) more realistic, you might try The Foreigner, and enjoy.