Chan goes look­ing for re­venge

Ac­tion se­quences come thick and fast for mar­tial arts star, but The For­eigner feels dull

Times Colonist - - Arts - KATIE WALSH


The For­eigner Where: Capi­tol 6, Cine­plex Odeon West­shore, Sil­verCity Star­ring: Jackie Chan, Pierce Bros­nan Di­rected by: Martin Camp­bell Parental ad­vi­sory: 14A Rat­ing: Two stars out of four

Leg­endary ac­tion star and mar­tial arts mae­stro Jackie Chan gets his Taken mo­ment with the ter­ror­ism thriller The For­eigner, writ­ten by David Mar­coni and di­rected by fre­quent Bond helms­man Martin Camp­bell.

Chan co-stars as a man seek­ing vengeance for the death of his daugh­ter in a Lon­don bomb­ing. His coun­ter­part is a griz­zled for­mer 007 him­self, Pierce Bros­nan, growl­ing his way into a meaty and mo­rally am­bigu­ous role as for­mer IRA mem­ber and Ir­ish deputy min­is­ter Liam Hen­nessy, at­tempt­ing to pol­i­tick his way around the af­ter­math of the bomb­ing, which is claimed by a rogue IRA cell.

Adapted from Stephen Leather’s novel The Chi­na­man, The For­eigner is only so-ti­tled be­cause the al­ter­na­tive would have caused an out­cry. Chan’s char­ac­ter, Quan Ngoc Minh, is mostly re­ferred to as “the Chi­na­man” through­out, even though he’s eth­ni­cally Viet­namese. De­spite its lit­er­ary ori­gins, the film feels a bit like a writer tossed a few darts at a board la­belled with ag­ing ac­tion stars and var­i­ous ter­ror­ist groups, and just de­cided to make it work. Jackie Chan vs. the Ir­ish Re­pub­li­can Army? That could work. What’s next: Bruce Wil­lis vs. ETA? Jean-Claude Van Damme takes on Aum Shin­rikyo?

Chan’s role is brood­ing, se­ri­ous and sim­ple. He wants names. Names of those re­spon­si­ble for his daugh­ter’s death. Re­buffed by the po­lice and govern­ment, he re­lies on his old bag of tricks, de­vel­oped in the jun­gles of Viet­nam, honed by U.S. spe­cial forces. He det­o­nates home­made bombs with notes just read­ing “NAMES” all around the en­vi­rons of deputy min­is­ter Hen­nessy’s stomp­ing grounds of Belfast. He plants nasty jun­gle traps, en­snar­ing Hen­nessy’s thugs. All just to get some face­time with the min­is­ter. Th­ese bombers cer­tainly messed with the wrong dad.

Chan, now in his 60s, isn’t the en­er­getic tor­nado of whirling kicks and punches he once was, but he’s still got it. His fight­ing style in the film is brutish, re­source­ful and ex­tremely ef­fec­tive. Bros­nan is the talker, de­ploy­ing his suave­ness, talk­ing out of both sides of his mouth to Bri­tish politi­cians and his ca­bal of for­mer (or are they?) IRA mil­i­tants.

It’s a re­fresh­ing change of pace to see Chan in this more se­ri­ous role, but he isn’t given all that much to do. When he isn’t in mo­tion, he stares va­cantly, com­mu­ni­cat­ing his shock and trauma, his char­ac­ter merely a vi­o­lent au­tom­a­ton.

There’s a lot hap­pen­ing in The For­eigner. One se­quence in­ter­cuts Chan be­ing stalked through the for­est by Hen­nessy’s spe­cial ops sol­dier nephew, while Hen­nessy chats with the Bri­tish po­lice who are surveilling him with drones, while also tor­tur­ing the truth out of one of his pals. Mean­while, a likely ter­ror­ist se­duces a re­porter. With all this go­ing on at once, why does it feel so dull?

The IRA re­vival sto­ry­line ham­pers the fa­ther’s re­venge plot and vice versa. We never dig deep enough to truly care about any of the char­ac­ters or even the plot twists. The For­eigner feels like halves of two dif­fer­ent (and prob­a­bly good) movies pasted to­gether, and now it doesn’t make much sense.

This vig­i­lante jus­tice story — stan­dard fare for the ag­ing ac­tion star — could have sig­nalled a new turn in Chan’s ca­reer, but he has to share this movie with Bros­nan’s far more fas­ci­nat­ing plot about dy­nas­ties of ter­ror­ism.

Un­for­tu­nately, nei­ther star re­ceives a fair shake in The For­eigner.

Jackie Chan in a scene from The For­eigner. Chan plays a man seek­ing vengeance for the death of his daugh­ter in a bomb­ing.

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