[Screen It]


(2017) (Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan) (R)

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Action: When his daughter is killed in a London terrorist bombing, a former Chinese military operative takes it upon himself to avenge her death.
When Quan's (JACKIE CHAN) only daughter is killed in a London terrorist bombing, he is beside himself with grief. The attack was apparently the work of a new fringe of the Irish Republican Army, hell-bent on stoking old hostilities between England and Northern Ireland. A few weeks go by, and the news media reports no suspects and no arrests. So, Quan decides to start pestering the British operative in charge of the investigation, Commander Richard Bromley (RAY FEARON), who gives him no help.

Fed up with what he perceives as ineptitude and the possible influence of muddied U.K. politics, Quan travels to Ireland to confront the man in charge on the other end of the investigation, Irish Deputy Minister Liam Hennessy (PIERCE BROSNAN). Liam is a former IRA member who has devoted the last two decades to keeping the peace and healing old wounds. But he also tells Quan that there are no leads and to let the professionals handle it.

Little do Bromley and Liam know that Quan was once a professional himself, a trained military operative highly skilled in weapons, explosives, and martial arts. He launches his own investigation and even sets off a few choice explosives himself to compel Liam and his cohorts to give him some names. Once he starts doing that, the movie reveals a tapestry of shifting loyalties and backdoor conspiracies involving Liam; his wife, Mary (ORLA BRADY), still yearning for revenge against the Brits who killed her brother years earlier; his mistress, Maggie (CHARLIE MURPHY), who may have more knowledge of the bombings than she leads on; his nephew, Sean (RORY FLECK BYRNE), an Iraqi war veteran who Liam trusts implicitly, but shouldn't; and Hugh McGrath (DERMOT CROWLEY), an old-guard IRA loyalist unable to fit in in the new order.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
Normally, a big part of my job entails counting curse words for my ScreenIt.com reviews. In the case of "The Foreigner?" I found myself counting producers! Check out the credits for this flick, folks, on either the Internet Movie Database or when you watch the credits roll in the theater. "The Foreigner" has 29 producers! Seriously, over the end credits, instead of bloopers or outtakes or Easter egg extra scenes, they should have gotten all of them together for a rousing rendition of "I Want to Be a Producer!" Heck, Mel Brooks might have even been one of the 29. I'll have to re-check.

Normally, when a film has this many cooks in the kitchen, it ends up being a mess. But, remarkably, "The Foreigner" is a pretty tight, little action thriller. It really helps that the hand at the director's wheel is Martin Campbell, who's helmed such solid flicks as "Casino Royale," "GoldenEye," and "The Mask of Zorro." Campbell usually does two things really well. One, he knows the appeal of bona fide movie stars and always keep their characters' interests at the core of each picture. And, two, he shoots action SO well. None of this jittery, jump-cut editing. Minimal hand-held cameras. Just wonderful big-screen lensing.

He had to be on his game here, because -- let's face it -- star Jackie Chan is in his 60s now and really no longer able to pull off the amazing fight moves of his prime years. Even a lot of his past-his-prime years, he was still able to deliver some stunningly cool and memorable action set pieces. Here, Campbell uses Chan's age to ratchet up the tension. You feel genuine concern for his character, Quan, when he is forced to fight men half his age and younger. And he lightens some of the more unlikely escapes and physical triumphs with characters raging, "You let an old man do THAT to you?!"

The humor in those instances is welcome in an otherwise sober and serious actioner. The film opens with a terrorist bombing in London in which Quan's daughter is one of the innocent victims. To the surprise of many, it's not the work of al Qaeda or ISIS, but a new rogue element of the IRA seeking to reignite tensions between England and Northern Ireland.

Quan first goes to British Commander Richard Bromley (Ray Fearon) for answers. He has none from England's side of the investigation. So, then he travels to Belfast and makes contact with Deputy Minister Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan). He professes to not have any names or clues either. But Quan knows that Liam is former IRA. He senses that he knows more than he's leading on. And what Liam doesn't know is that Quan is a former military operative himself -- one trained in weapons, explosives, fighting, and more.

Of course, there is a lot to Liam that Quan and the audience come to know. He's a pretty fascinating character, and Brosnan gets to sink his teeth in here. "The Foreigner" skews older, and is as much interested in character and motivation and back stories as the fights and pyrotechnics. I don't even want to go into the whole Irish side of the film, because there are so many interlocking rivalries and grudges and old betrayals. In fact, there are times where Quan's story gets pretty lost as Campbell and Co. clearly love laying out the intricacies of new Ireland vs. old Ireland and may be a touch bored with Chan's more basic revenge narrative.

The bad? Well, it's hard to get into a popular entertainment centered around terrorist attacks. Bloodied innocents, a double-decker bus bomb, and a threat at a major airport all hit more close to home than ever before. So, if it's escapism you crave, new "Thor" and "Star Wars" are on the way. One other problem I had with the film is that it spends an inordinate amount of time on a wooded property where the Irish government has sent Liam and his wife (Orla Brady) for their protection. And Quan gets on the property and causes havoc for several days. Liam responds by sending a team of four armed guards and then just his paramilitary nephew. A hit team of two dozen trained Irish operatives sweeping the woods would've ended Quan's threat in a matter of minutes.

But then it would have also ended the movie too soon. A lot of the really good stuff happens late in "The Foreigner," and it's worth sticking around for. It's also worth paying to see. I rate it a very solid 6 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed October 11, 2017 / Posted October 13, 2017

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