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Jackie Chan squares off against Pierce Bronson in The Foreigner

After spending the last few years doing voice-over work and doing films in his native China, Jackie Chan returns to the screen in STX Entertainment, The Foreigner, based on the novel The Chinaman by Stephen Leather. Directed by Martin Campbell (who previously helmed The Green Lantern and the 2006 Jams Bond reboot Casino Royale), The Foreigner finds Chan as Ngoc Minh Quan, a former Navy SEAL turned London restaurateur. After his daughter dies in a terrorist bombing attack, he is looking for revenge.

Quan's central nemesis Liam Hennessey (the always reliable Pierce Bronson), is a former IRA member turned British government official who may know more than he leads on. One might expect this to be an all-out tale of revenge with no stop action from the previews. However, this isn't the case. I found The Foreigner to be more of a political thriller mixed with a revenge tale. Director Campbell & screenwriter David Marconi take the time to invest in Quan, so when the action does arrive, it's more than satisfying.

Marconi, who previously scripted the films Live Free Or Die Hard and Enemy Of The State, deserves credit for getting Chan's best work since the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid. I also give Marconi credit for throwing in a few plot twists along the way involving the Hennessey character. Initially, I thought the film would go one way, but Marconi surprised me with Hennessey's handling. As Hennessey, Bronson is a conflicted man whose own dark past may be why Quan is hunting him.

While Chan may be known for his action and comedic acting in his movies, he does solid dramatic work. Throughout the film, I can't recall Chan ever cracking a smile, which makes sense as his character grieves the loss of a child. Naturally, with this being a Jackie Chan film, there are some impressive action sequences. Chan isn't reserved when it's time for his fight sequences, and some of the action sequences are reminiscent of Chan's early work in his Police Story trilogy. Despite his age, Chan still looks believable when it's time to take on the bad guys.

The action scenes are reminiscent of the Bourne series. They are brutal and grounded. But Rest assured, Chan fans, there are scenes of Chan's trademark acrobatics and improv fighting style. While the filming of the fight scenes is a bit similar to the shaky cam that has been the norm in recent years, here, it's compelling and less nauseating than, say, the Bourne films. The Foreigner isn't without some missteps, though. While Chan is one of the movie's highlights, he's only in about 40% of the movie. Chan's performance is so good that the film tends to drag whenever he isn't on the screen. The Foreigner also suffers from almost being the same movie as Campbell's own, Edge of Darkness, which starred Mel Gibson.

Despite a few small missteps, The Foreigner is still some of the best work we've seen from Chan, Bronson, and Campbell in years and worth a trip to the theater.

Final Grade B+


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