The Austin Chronicle

The Foreigner

Rated R, 114 min. Directed by Martin Campbell. Starring Katie Leung, Jackie Chan, Rufus Jones, Pierce Brosnan, Ray Fearon, Aaron Monaghan, Charlie Murphy.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 13, 2017

Jackie Chan returns to form in this taut little revenger that revolves around love lost, bloodthirsty vendettas gained, and … the Irish Republican Army? Well, yes, actually. As if there weren’t enough current global villains to choose from, screenwriter David Marconi (working from the 1992 novel by Stephen Leather) and director Campbell (Casino Royale) have backtracked into The Troubles, serving up a story that involves a terrorist offshoot of the IRA – confusingly dubbed “The Authentic IRA” – that doubles as both a hazy political thriller and a grim echo of Ted Kotcheff’s First Blood Rambo film, with Chan in full-on Stallone mode as Quan Ngoc Minh, a survivor of the Vietnam war and now humble owner of a London eatery who loses his only remaining daughter to IRA-inflicted collateral damage.

It’s more of a John Woo role than anything we’ve seen from Chan in ages, if ever, and those seeking a redux of Police Story-era Chan (or for that matter, heaven forfend, City Hunter), it may come as a surprise that the beloved HK action godhead can play dark, grim, and nasty as well as he does here. Too bad he’s really only in half the movie, creeping through the shrubberies outside ex-IRA bigwig turned “respectable” Brit politico Liam Hennessy (Brosnan) and planting Green Beret-style booby traps all over the place. Chan, at 63, is ripe for this sort of career about-face. Quan is weary and battle-scarred from his days in SE Asia – he just wants to be left alone initially, before reverting into a one-man shadow warrior with only one thought in mind: Find the people who slaughtered his daughter. That said, you can’t spell slaughter without laughter, although the film tries mightily to keep Chan’s trademark affability and occasional wackiness fully in check.

Hennessy and Quan are working toward similar goals in uncovering these new IRA goons (or are they?) before a final-act, race-against-time plot device can be carried out, necessitating a thoroughly bloody final bit involving torture and a fitting denouement. Chan is given some close-quarter brawling to do and he pulls if off magnificently for an actor who, at one point or another, has literally broken every bone in his body. He’s still lightning quick, but The Foreigner plays down the set-pieces in favor of a far more realistic tone. He even weeps at one point, not something you see the king of HK chopsocky do every day. The Foreigner could’ve used less of Brosnan's bombast, frankly, and more of the mysterious Mr. Quan, but this dark-edged little razor blade of a film is ultimately a satisfying comeback for Chan. More, please.

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