Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan go head-to-head in “The Foreigner”
Blu-ray, DVD; 2017; R for violence, profanity and some sexual material; streaming via Amazon Video, Google Play, YouTube
Best extra: Interviews with Director Martin Campbell, Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan
WHO knew Jackie Chan wanted to act in a dramatic film?
He talks about being typecast as the comical martial arts star in an interview on the Blu-ray from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. While he loves those films – and being beloved worldwide for his efforts – it was frustrating to be unable to stretch his talents. Hong Kong and Hollywood knew what the fans liked and were unwilling to rock the boat.
Chan is a nice guy. Aside from talent, that’s another reason he’s so well liked. Still, there’s no reason a nice guy can’t be a bad ass. That’s how he, director Martin Campbell and co-star Pierce Brosnan describe Chan’s humble businessman Quan Ngoc Minh.
Set in London, Quan takes his teenage daughter to pick up a dress for an upcoming dance. She is killed when a terrorist bomb goes off at the bank next door. A group calling itself the Authentic IRA claims responsibility, demanding release of captured terrorists. That brings Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Liam Hennessy (Brosnan), a former IRA leader, into the mix. Quan initially approaches Scotland Yard seeking justice for his daughter. They put him off, underestimating his determination. Eventually, Quan seeks out Hennessy at his home in Northern Ireland. That’s where the plot thickens, rooms explode and bullets start flying.
And Jackie Chan displays his amazing martial arts skills. He remains incredibly fluid, again incorporating ingenious methods, but they are streamlined into a character that is used to darker action. We find out Quan is a former Vietnam War special ops soldier trained by the U.S. Army. A flashback reveals his daughter was the lone survivor of a massacre that took the rest of his family. Hennessy’s past as a former IRA leader is no secret, but it’s a shock to discover he’s the impetus behind the terrorist attacks. There’s just one problem; these attacks go further than he planned. Someone has changed the game behind his back. While trying to figure it out, Hennessy must also deal with Quan, who “encourages” him to uncover the IRA terrorists in his own special way. Neither Quan nor the British government knows Hennessy initiated the bombings to gain more political power.
The action and twists make the bones of a good story. The script by David Marconi (“Enemy of the State,” “Live Free or Die Hard”) is based on “The Chinaman” by Stephen Leather, who has written for British TV and is one of Amazon Kindle’s top selling authors. Unfortunately, in its transition from book to screen, “The Foreigner” suffers from convoluted plotting. It’s at its best when Chan and Brosnan are on the screen, but loses momentum in scenes where other characters take over. Martin Campbell of the 2006 “Casino Royale” and “Vertical Limit,” also directed Brosnan’s Bond in “GoldenEye.” He keeps the action going, with a firm emphasis on character.
Universal’s 1080p transfer (2.39:1 ratio) and 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack are first class all the way. Visuals are sharp and well-focused, with excellent contrast and clarity. Color is subdued for a “natural” look in the London and Northern Ireland settings. Texture has power, especially as seen in the faces of Brosnan and Chan. Brosnan’s Hennessey was modeled after Irish politician Gerry Adams, with his short gray hair, full beard and glasses. Chan’s Quan shows the scars of his long and frequently terrifying life, as well as the damage he takes seeking justice.
Like the images, the immersive soundtrack goes for the natural. Bombs explode, bullets burst, and fist fights have loads of punch; the room is filled with authentic, but not exaggerated sound. It’s very effective. Dialogue is consistent and clear; those who have trouble with dialects can embrace the subtitle option. The score is by Cliff Martinez, who composed for “Drive” and “The Knick.”
Bonus features include a brief making-of, but interviews with Campbell, Chan and Brosnan hold the good stuff – anecdotes, character and action analysis, and production history.
Chan tells us Quan is similar to his other characters – “He’s a good man.” The point in “The Foreigner,” he says, is to never underestimate a good man’s determination and ability.
I think we learned that in Chan’s fun films, too.
- Kay Reynolds