Film Review- The Foreigner (2017)
Fair Value of The Foreigner: $5.00. Its worth watching on the in-flight movie, but there’s little that’s memorable about this film.
Is This Film Worth My Time? The Foreigner is a taut and engaging mixture of vigilante action and espionage. Its one of the better, more well assembled examples of Geri-Action.
Who Will Like This Film? Fans of films like In The Name of the Father, or television series like MI6. The action never strays too far from plausibility, and the film offers intrigue from all sides and factions.
Who Should Skip This Film? Those looking for Jackie Chan’s kung fu will be underwhelmed, as will those looking for his comedic chops. This is a grim, serious film that lingers on the casualties, and where no one gets out unscathed.
TL,DR: IRA bombings kill the wrong civilian- the daughter of a Viet Cong commando.
Some Context: Why is a former VC badass running an East End Chinese restaurant? Well, hes a Chinese-Vietnamese refugee. The last great wave of boat people refugees from Vietnam came from 1980, when a Vietnamese-Chinese border war sparked a widespread persecution on ethnic Chinese living in Vietnam.
One of the oldest cliches of Chinese drama is that the plain old man/ lady is inevitably a kung fu master- a lesson in why you should respect your elders. The 21st century update of this trope is that such a person is a veteran of the special forces.
On the other side of the cultural coin, you have the very current fear that the IRA could become violent again, and that the Troubles will restart in all their terror. It wasn’t that long ago that the Troubles seemed to be a dark but eclipsed portion of British history. But now, Brexit threatens to undo the Good Friday Accords (which hinged in part in the free transit of people between Northern Ireland and Ireland). UK Prime Minister Theresa May has recently made murky deals with the Protestant fanatics. And lastly, having IRA as villains doesn’t have the same controversy as having Islamic terrorists- there isn’t the concern of racial bias when both factions are equally pasty.
The Fall of the House of Gerry Adams: The real center character of this film is not the vengeful Quan Minh (Jackie Chan), but Liam Hennessey (Pierce Brosnan), acting as a stand-in for Sinn Fein politician Gerry Adams. At the beginning of the film, hes a Tony Soprano figure- a successful politician who’s made a career of appearing reformed, while still presiding over the council of the IRA.
This is undone by the first terrorist bombing, which sets the events of the film in motion. Quan Minh is really the nemesis of the film, the central plot being the quasi-Shakesperean downfall of a manor full of flawed people. Hes out there, in the woods, slowly picking apart the defense, while Liam and his lieutenants bluff and back stab each other. The film is an extended hunt, with multiple parties stumbling over each others path: Liam is hunting the rogue IRA cell, the MI6 and Scotland Yard are hunting the IRA, and Quan Minh is hunting for the killers of his daughter.
Deathwish 8: Derry Death Derby: Chan’s Quan Minh is evocative of the originator of Geri-action, Charles Bronson’s Paul Kersey. He’s a quiet, hard-working man who prefers to be under-estimated, and who uses traps as much as direct fighting to even the odds. And like Kersey, Quan Minh does bring the one admirable dynamic of Geriatric Action film stars- there’s the real question of whether the character can survive the handicap of their age.
Unfortunately, there’s no humor, no one-liners, and not much in the way of humanization for the character. That’s why hes really more the lead supporting actor, with Brosnan as the troubled patriarch who sees the history of the 20th century rising up to destroy all hes built. The Foreigner is solid, but ultimately there’s nothing here that we haven’t seen elsewhere.