Movie night is here and I thought I’d start with a positive statement. I love Jackie Chan. I’ve been a fan for many years and I have massive respect for anyone who practices Martial Arts because it takes tremendous discipline and it looks really cool.
Jackie Chan is a legend when it comes to action films especially ones that are more ‘family friendly’ and all the kids know who he is. However, I know over the years, he has said that he wants to be taken more seriously as an actor and now having seen ‘The Foreigner’, I would say this is a step in that direction. Not a massive step. But a step.
I say that because it is still an action movie with some fight scenes but it’s not overly ‘Jackie Chan’ levels of amazing and exciting martial arts. That’s not a criticism, what I mean is that the fight scenes are more ‘realistic’. You’ll know what I mean when you see the plot.
Ngoc Minh Quan (Jackie Chan) is a Chinese immigrant who holds citizenship in Britain and owns a restaurant in Walworth called ‘The Happy Peacock’ with his friend, Keyi Lam (Liu Tao). One day, Quan is dropping off his teenage daughter, Fan (Katie Leung) for a dress fitting when the shop is blown up in terrorist attack by the ‘Authentic IRA’. Fan is killed in the blast, devastating Quan and leaving him seeking revenge.
Since the police won’t tell him anything, he heads to Belfast to confront Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland and former member of the IRA, Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan) about who could have carried out the attack. Still getting nowhere but insisting that Hennessy is involved, Quan stages a number of his own small bombings that aren’t designed to hurt anyone but get his attention so Hennessy will give up the names of the people who were responsible for killing his daughter. It’s one of ‘those’ plots.
Naturally, I think from that description, you’ll have figured out that Hennessy is involved to some degree or rather, everyone around him is involved and this is where I feel the film shoots itself in the foot. It’s trying to do a lot. On the one side, there’s Quan trying to get revenge and on the other, there’s the big conspiracy involving Hennessy and the IRA and Hennessy’s wife and it’s all very confusing and I honestly couldn’t tell you that I had a firm grasp on what was going on.
However, I really like Jackie Chans bits, there just weren’t enough of them. Given that the poster for the film is Jackie Chan standing in front of some exploded buildings, you’d think that the film would mostly feature Jackie Chan but as it stands, it seems the plot is mostly focusing on Liam Hennessy and his role and Quan pops up from time to time to annoy him.
As for Liam Hennessy, I did find Brosnan’s Irish accent pretty funny. It was OK but you can tell when someone attempts an accent because their own starts to slip through. Especially when it comes to Great Britain and Northern Ireland because we have to be the smallest Island Nation with the most regional accents.
This film maybe difficult for Americans to penetrate because it kind of requires they know a little bit about Irish history, especially a period that was known as ‘The Troubles’ which was and on and off conflict starting the late 1960s and finally coming to an end in 1998 with the ‘Good Friday Agreement’.
Although this was a complicated situation, the main cause of the conflict was the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. As it stood, the Unionists and Loyalists wanted Northern Ireland to remain in the UK whilst the nationalists wanted the North to leave the UK and join for a united Ireland.
This was a long and bloody conflict with a lot of suffering for those involved but for the context of this film, a key group in the Troubles were the IRA or the Irish Republican Army. Their aim was to end the UK’s reign in Northern Ireland and their methods were usually violent. The group were designated a ‘terrorist organization’ in the UK and ‘illegal’ in the Republic of Ireland.
During the conflict, the IRA were responsible for a number of bombings both in Ireland and in England and so in the film, the group responsible for the bombing that killed Quan’s daughter call themselves the ‘Authentic IRA’.
Hennessy is cheating on his wife, Mary (Orla Brady) with Maggie (Charlie Murphy) and it turns out that Maggie is heavily involved in the group that orchestrated the bombing at the clothing store and then another on a London bus and one more attack that needs to be foiled. Although Hennessy wasn’t aware of Maggie’s involvement as her real name is Sara Mackay, Quan snaps a picture of him kissing her in a café, therefore casting doubt on his innocence.
In actuality, Hennessey’s wife, Mary is the real mastermind behind the bombings as her brother was killed and Liam wouldn’t have them killed but sent to prison which is how the world should work. I’ve never been one for Capital Punishment or ‘revenge killing’ because it doesn’t make any sense. If you take someone’s life, you should lose your right to freedom and be in prison. No one has the right to take someone’s life.
Also, Mary is having an affair of her own with Hennessey’s nephew, Sean (Rory Fleck-Byrne) who is an ex-soldier brought in to track Quan.
That’s about as much of the whole ‘Hennessy’ thing that I fully understand.
Like I said before, I really enjoyed Jackie Chan’s performance. Naturally, later on we find out more about his past as a Chinese special forces soldier during the Vietnam war so he does divert to his martial arts/action roots for some scenes but for the most part, his portrayal of a grieving father.
Also, we learn that Quan previously had a wife and two daughters, but they were killed before Quan came to the UK. I think it whilst they were trying to escape some kind of conflict. But the point is that he came to the UK to escape the horrors in his home country and it was actually the place where he lost his last surviving family member. There’s a sad moment where a photographer turns up to the ruined clothing store to take pictures of the scene and sees Quan cradling and crying over his daughters’ body.
Later, when the police come to see him, he seems really disconnected but also like he’s formulating a plan in his head. As far as he’s concerned, he may as well go on a possible suicide mission to get revenge because he’s got nothing else. Before leaving on the aforementioned possible suicide mission, he hands the papers to his restaurant to his friend and colleague, Lam so he knows that the only thing left in his life will be taken care of.
So, that’s that.
‘The Foreigner’ proved to be a bit of a money spinner having made $145.4 Million against a $35 Million budget.
To end, I did like this film and I’m glad to see that Jackie Chan is flexing his acting muscles a little bit because he is really talented. For a long time, he was among the action stars, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jean Claude Van Damme, etc, who are only famous for being good at action and I personally would like to see him in more ‘drama’ type films. We’ve seen his abilities when it comes to martial arts, but I think it’s time we see much more of his acting abilities with a proper role that will do him justice.
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