For a man in his 60’s, Jackie Chan continues to take physically demanding roles. Although the international movie star has “retired” from making his typical action features, Chan is back with a project that proves he can still bring it when he needs to. In addition, the 63 year-old brings some formidable acting chops to an action-drama which co-stars Pierce Brosnan. Written by David Marconi and directed by veteran director Martin Campbell (Golden Eye, Casino Royale), The Foreigner is a tight revenge thriller that is as enjoyable as it is intense.

Based on the 1992 Stephen Leather novel The Chinaman, Chan plays Ngoc Minh Quan, a retired special forces op turned restaurant owner. Having experienced plenty of tragedy, he seeks revenge when his teenage daughter (Katie Leung) is killed during an IRA terrorist bombing. His grief quickly becomes anger and Quan goes on a focused quest to find those responsible. Quan’s revenge campaign leads him to Liam Hennessy (Brosnan), an Irish deputy minister who has past ties to the IRA. Liam says he doesn’t know who’s involved - Quan thinks otherwise. To show is displeasure Quan unleashes a bevy of activity intending to extract names from Liam. In the meantime, the “Authentic IRA,” those responsible for the bombing, are planning their next attack. What is at first a simple act of vengeance turns into a complex power struggle that involves more people than originally imagined.

I’m not sure how relevant the IRA is now (especially to Americans), but terrorist acts hit very close to home. With that in mind, losing loved ones to such senseless acts is a part of The Foreigner’s appeal. Using Chan as the victim and advocate is perfect casting, as he is considered an everyman who happens to have seemingly otherworldly physical abilities. What’s different is viewers witness a more sullen and angry Chan (with much less pep and humor), but his charm and appeal still shine brightly. In past films, Chan’s characters are typically the hunted. As Quan, Chan does the hunting, even though the threat of fatal action isn’t apparent (Quan, despite the pain of losing his daughter, never comes off as a person who lacks morality). In fact, it’s his morality which urges him to seek out the truth. His special ops training only provides him the ability to exact his revenge, that and the notion that Liam and his men severely underestimate him. Subtle racial profiling – that Asian males are emasculated, weak and unassuming – is at play. But in all honesty, that concept has always been applied to many of Chan’s films.

Opposite Chan is Brosnan, who ramps up his Irish accent and shows off a darker side. He also puts forth a strong performance, mainly because Liam is the more complex character. From the trailers, Liam is billed as the bad guy, but there’s more to the Irish DM than that. Liam suffers from a combination of things – a failing marriage, political pressures, loss of character and lack of appreciation for his humble roots. He’s juggling those personal issues all while trying to handle Quan and the aftermath of the bombing. Brosnan is solid despite playing the less flashy role.

With a running time of 113 minutes, The Foreigner has some lulls. It’s understandable since it’s not a straightforward action film, but the when the action gets going it’s memorable and displays some elements of that trademark Chan physicality. Oddly, the back and forth between Liam and Quan is more interesting than the whodunit storyline, but that’s a testament to the appeal of Chan and Brosnan. The cinematography (David Tattersall) is solid, while the Cliff Martinez’s (Drive) score is memorable. Overall, The Foreigner is a strong action-drama that displays an older, wiser Jackie Chan, who’s still entertaining without being cartoony or over the top.

4 stars out of 5

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