Cinematic Releases: Stranger in a Strange Land: The Foreigner (2017)

Even though nobody asked for it, the world finally has a movie where they can watch Jackie Chan fight the IRA. The Foreigner (2017) stars Jackie Chan as Ngoc Minh Quan, a retired Navy Seal who has given up that life and has a quiet existence as a noodle shop owner with his young daughter. When she is involved in a terrorist attack perpetrated by the IRA, he swears to get revenge at any cost. This brings him to the attention of high-ranking British official named Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan) who has ties with the IRA. The entire film tries to play out as a sort of cat-and-mouse thriller, but unfortunately the intertwined storylines don't mesh together well.

The plot structure itself is what ultimately brings this movie down. The audience isn't given much background on Quan and has hardly anytime to get to know his character before they try to elicit sympathy for his plight. Around the second act they are given his backstory in a montage style flashback, but it's not enough to flesh out his motivations. It's unfortunate, because Chan puts in an excellent dramatic performance with the few scenes that are allotted to him. Brosnan is hamming it up big time, and it's hard to take him seriously at any point in the film.

This could have been an interesting mix of ideas, but the way they weave Quan and Hennessy's stories together is far from seamless. Any time Quan and Hennessy cross paths it feels contrived. It feels like they tried to glue together two completely different films. It's also odd how they gave Chan so much attention in the promotion of the film, even going so far as to put him front and center on the official poster, yet he is only in about a third of the film. His character is the most interesting, but they hardly give him time to expand on it. Honestly, this whole "they took/killed my daughter so now I have to be a one-man-army to get revenge" trope is getting tired. How many times are they going to remake Taken (2008)?!

The Foreigner is a competent looking film, with nothing that really stands out on the visual front. The fight scenes are pretty good as Chan is still quite agile and dynamic, but it's nothing we haven't seen before. They are edited within an inch of their life too, which makes them feel disjointed and choppy at times. The music is the best thing about the film as it has a thumping electronic score provided by Cliff Martinez. It gives the film a direct-to-video mid-eighties flick kind of feel.

This isn't a horrible film, it's just mediocre in every way. I was hoping to see Chan given some fantastic dramatic material to work with, but he is basically a side plot, playing second fiddle to an uninteresting Brosnan.

-Michelle Kisner