If an extremely sporadic and disorganized plot mixed with repetitive and unnecessarily dramatic fight scenes is what the creators of “The Foreigner” were going for, they nailed it. Featuring Jackie Chan as the main selling point, the movie is exactly what you would expect: two hours of action-packed, high-energy entertainment. While the fight scenes are well-executed, my primary problem with the film lies in its disorganization.
The film follows Ngoc Minh Quan’s (Chan) quest for vengeance after his daughter, his last living family member, is killed in an explosion that he believes is linked to the Irish government. Referred to as the “Chinaman” by the other characters (even though the character is Vietnamese), Quan hunts the Irish Deputy Minister Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), uncovers a government conspiracy and fights Hennessy’s henchmen in the process.
The most glaring problem with the first half of the movie is that there is no context for the events that drive the plot. The first scene shows Quan’s daughter dying in an explosion in a bank; obviously this necessitates some sort of explanation, but the only background given is through a hard-to-hear phone call in which a breathy voice claims the “Authentic IRA” has taken responsibility for the bombing. By the middle of the movie I was finally able to piece together most of the background, but not before I spent a good 30 minutes confused by any mention of the IRA (I still don’t know exactly what the acronym stands for, I just know it’s an Irish terrorist group.)
The rest of the film is supposed to center around Quan’s intense grudge against Hennessy; I say “supposed to” because the central plot ends up being corrupted by numerous unnecessary subplots. At the beginning of the movie it’s made clear that Hennessy’s ultimate objective is re-election, which he plans to accomplish by using the information he knows as political leverage. Ultimately, this character motivation gets muddled by numerous other side stories, such as a random incestuous relationship involving Hennessy’s wife. By the end of the film I had almost completely forgotten why Hennessy had involved himself with the bombings in the first place.
The redeeming quality of the film definitely comes through in Chan’s fight scenes. Entertaining and suspenseful, Chan doesn’t disappoint in his highly anticipated performance. While certain scenes were slightly repetitive and the final fight scene was a little underwhelming, Chan’s performance maintained a level of believability while also delivering fast-paced entertainment.
It makes sense that the trailer is mostly snippets of Quan fighting because everything else in the movie almost seems merely like a backdrop for the fights. While all the seemingly irrelevant plot lines eventually come together in the end, the organization of the movie made the film difficult to understand and enjoy. “The Foreigner” is undoubtedly action-packed and certain parts will keep you on the edge of your seat, but if you’re looking for a mindless martial arts thriller, I’d suggest finding another film.