Film review: The Foreigner – Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan shine in political thriller
With former Bond director Martin Campbell in charge, Chan delivers in a dramatic role as a revenge-seeking ex-special forces dad and Brosnan drops the overacting in this update of the 1992 novel The Chinaman
The Foreigner is an old-school political thriller that holds its course right until the end. Jackie Chan finally gets to play a dramatic character that suits his advancing years, and Pierce Brosnan, a former 007 who often enjoys hamming it up, puts in an uncharacteristically nuanced performance as a troubled politician.
Although it is based on the 1992 novel The Chinaman – about an Asian man hunting down members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to get revenge for his daughter’s death in a bomb attack – the film has been updated to reflect modern times.
The Foreigner cleverly changes the villains to the Authentic IRA (an obvious reference to the breakaway Real IRA group), who launch a bombing campaign in London to derail the Northern Ireland peace process. It’s daring territory, and New Zealand-born director Martin Campbell, who previously made the Bond films GoldenEye and Casino Royale, makes a good job of it.
Chan plays Quan, a London-based restaurateur who was once a skilled special forces agent in the Vietnam War. When Quan’s daughter (Katie Leung) is killed in a terrorist car bombing, he goes to Ireland to take revenge on the perpetrators.
This brings him into contact with Hennessy (Brosnan), a former IRA leader who is now a respectable politician. Quan threatens to kill Hennessy unless he turns over the names of the bombers, but there’s a problem: Hennessy genuinely doesn’t know who did it. To save his own skin, Hennessy launches into an internecine battle with his former IRA colleagues.
The film’s revenge element echoes the staple ingredient of Hong Kong martial arts films. But the political aspects are well designed, and elevate The Foreigner above its B-movie premise. The action scenes scattered throughout are not entirely credible in the context of a political thriller, but are a lot of fun – if nothing else, they do allow the ageing Chan to shine while taking a lot of punishment.
The Foreigner opens on December 7
Want more articles like this? Follow SCMP Film on Facebook