Genre: Action Thriller
Starring: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan
Based on: The Chinaman, 1992 novel by Stephen Leather
Release Date: 30 Sept. 2017
Director: Martin CampbellProduction Company: Huayi Brothers
“A humble businessman with a buried past seeks justice when his daughter is killed in an act of terrorism. A cat-and-mouse conflict ensues with a government official, whose past may hold clues to the killers’ identities.”
I watched this on Netflix UK.
Jackie Chan, star of Martial Arts movies such as Project A (1983), Police Story (1985) and Armour of God I and II, stars as Quan Ngoc Minh; a Chinese single parent, living in England with his only daughter. Pierce Brosnan, former James Bond, is Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Liam Hennessy, a former IRA member who is publicly open about his past but now in his later years, is keen to keep the peace accord in place. In the opening, Quan’s young teenage daughter is killed in a terrorist bomb attack – the quiet man sets out on a vendetta to find his daughter’s killers.
I have been watching Jackie Chan movies since the early 80s, and am very familiar with his fast-paced action style, his well-publicised injuries during filming, his comedic roles and Buster Keatonesque scenarios. So this was a bit of a mental adjustment. Chan is now 63 years old and although he cannot do the ridiculous acrobatics he performed in his earlier films, he can still move with astonishing speed – when he needs to. I was totally impressed with his physical stamina; and this film does have some pretty harsh fight scenes. He is mostly pitted against men who are twenty to thirty years his junior and is tripped, thrown and felled to a degree you wonder how his ageing body can take it.
However, what affected me most was his very moving performance as a deeply distraught father who simply wants the names of his child’s murderers. He drifts like a ghost, stands in his daughters bedroom and stares, he shuffles like an old man. When his offer to pay the police for the names of the bombers is refused, he decides to take matters into his own hands. And here; along with the First Minister, we discover Quan’s history. It is both tragic and fearsome – the Minister and his men are tested repeatedly by this quiet foreigner who wants, not only justice, but revenge.
The film is interesting for its pitting two older men against one another; neither are completely innocent; both have violent pasts. There is a resilience one could call stubbornness in both men. Both have their own moral codes that one could say have become rigid. There are thrilling fight scenes, but not so many – this is mature martial arts – when Chan is knocked flat on his back on a rooftop my ageing bones empathised. This is also the first time I have ever seen Chan cry.
It’s an oddity too. The bad guys are Irish, or more precisely, the IRA. The IRA ceasefire was called about 20 years ago, so to someone who grew up in England during The Troubles, with Irish parents, it seems dated. Plus, there are moments in the film in which some characters refer to Chan’s character as ‘the Chinaman’ – I couldn’t decide if it was racist, a hint that Brits and Irish are racist, a nod to the original novel title, or lazy updating of terms. Some of Hennessy’s henchmen can come across as a little too predictable, too generic and the theme could said to be dated – but – I did enjoy it; if enjoy is the right word to use for such a dark, troubled and sad film.
I give The Foreigner –