Jackie Chan’s The Foreigner Takes Us by Surprise

Jackie Chan speaks at an early screening of his film, The Foreigner

There are times you see a trailer for a film like Martin Cambell’s The Foreigner (2017), and feel you’ve seen it once before. However, seeing such a film being produced feels like a return to normalcy in a cinematic market that attempts to pump out more blockbusters than low-budget films. Some of us here at the Film Studies Program, myself included, were lucky enough to watch The Foreigner a day in advance, and with the film’s star Jackie Chan making an appearance to discuss the film. After confirming Rush Hour 4, Jackie Chan discussed how he produced the film after watching the Taken series with Liam Neeson, wishing he could’ve been in those movies. Jackie Chan also discussed his hope that the role he plays in this film would show that he’s more than just a great martial artist and stuntman, but also a good actor.

The Foreigner follows Ngoc Minh Quan (Jackie Chan), an immigrant who wants to avenge the death of his teenage daughter after she dies in a politically-fueled IRA bombing. With his special set of skills, Quan attempts to wear down government official Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), whose potential ties to the IRA gives Quan reason to believe Hennessy could give him the names of the terrorists who killed his daughter, and exact his revenge. Jackie Chan has definitely proved himself as an underrated actor in this film, portraying the emotionally broken Quan surprisingly well. Quan as a character doesn’t have a huge emotional range in this film, but you do believe his pain at losing his last living family member, and it’s impressive that the usually jovial and charismatic Jackie Chan can portray this potentially unhinged character as well as he has. While assumptions could be made on Quan’s backstory by the nature of this film, the movie avoids huge exposition dumps on his character, preferring to drip-feed you information on his past that all connect by the last act of the film. There’s also something inherently fun about watching an older man beating down the young members of the IRA that left the audience audibly reacting to the action on screen.

However, as you might expect from a low-budget action-centric flick, the story gets pretty convoluted, especially if you think about it too much. Though the film advertises itself as Taken with Jackie Chan, much of the film is dedicated to the plot with the IRA and Hennessy’s ties to the organization, as well as the political string-pulling involved with his position in British government. While potentially interesting, the further along the film goes, the more tangled the strings that hold everything together become. By the end of the film, many of us were scratching our heads asking if these connected dots really felt like they were connected. Even parts of the ending felt a little too convenient for a revenge fantasy action movie.

Ultimately, The Foreigner is a film to watch for the action rather than the plot. If Taken starring Jackie Chan sounds like your kind of film, you’ll find this film is a good time if you don’t think too hard about the story. After all, what more do you need than another fun action film starring Jackie Chan?


George Ibarra is a Senior at Florida International University, pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in English, along with a Certificate in Exile Studies.

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