Stephen Leather wrote and released a thriller novel in 1992 called “the Chinaman”. It was converted into a movie this year and released starring Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan. From what I can tell, the movie stays pretty close to the novel.
When the movie opens, Ngoc Minh Quan appears to be your run-of-the-mill Chinese immigrant in London, owning and operating a restaurant, and picking up his daughter from school. He takes her to buy a dress for an upcoming dance, when a bomb goes off in the street, killing her along with several others. Quan, despondent at losing the only family he has left, checks with Scotland Yard officer Richard Bromley daily, who has no information aside from a group called the “Authentic IRA” has claimed responsibility. Unwilling to let it go, and determined to get justice – or perhaps revenge, Quan continues to pursue the issue, reaching out to Irish minister Liam Hennessy, who used to have IRA ties. From this point on, the movie has almost two parallel storylines as Quan pursues Hennessy for answers and Hennessy tries to find answers on his own. Eventually, both find the answers they were looking for, but not quite as they expected.
I really enjoyed the movie, more so than I was expecting to. Director Martin Campbell can be hit or miss for me, I loved GoldenEye, but didn’t really enjoy Casino Royale. And while the Mask of Zorro was fantastic, he also did Green Lantern. The Foreigner moves steadily, but not all that quickly, as everyone involved is searching for almost the same information in different ways. The tension stays pretty high all the way through, and is maintained in interesting dialogue sequences and great action moments. The cast is unexpectedly wonderful.
- Jackie Chan plays Ngoc Minh Quan in a role that is very different from what we’re used to seeing him do. His portrayal of a man who has just lost everything he loves in the world is beautifully tragic, and yet also completely and totally focused and determined to get justice for his daughter. There’s less action scenes than he used to do, but it is still all him, and they are wonderful.
- Pierce Brosnan plays Liam Hennessy, and does a great job of making you want to be on his side even when you start to question his motives. He’s aging well, and plays this role just right. I know he’s originally Irish, so the accent does fit pretty well, but does seem over-done at times.
- Michael McElhatton plays Jim Kavanagh, who varies from Liam’s assistant to his henchman depending on the situation.
- Liu Tao plays Keyi Lam, who helps Quan run the restaurant, and tries to steer him away from his quest for vengeance.
- Charlie Murphy plays Maggie, Liam’s mistress – who, of course, is not exactly what she seems to be.
- Orla Brady (if you’re not watching Into the Badlands, you should be!) plays Mary Hennessy, Liam’s wife – who also is not exactly what she seems to be.
- Ray Fearon plays Commander Richard Bromley, and he’s exactly what he seems to be. He’s a hard-working officer, unsure how to help Quan, but also determined to solve the bombing.
- Rory Fleck-Byrne plays Sean Morrison, Liam’s nephew and ex-Royal irish Ranger/UK Special Forces. He is what he seems to be, and agrees to help his uncle track down Quan.
- Lia Williams plays Katherine Davies, British minister and politician, who Liam has to report to, and tries to keep him in check.
- Dermot Crowley plays Hugh McGrath and Niall McNamee plays Patrick O’Reilly, two of the “Authentic IRA”, carrying out these bombings throughout London.
Overall, I definitely recommend this movie – it’s very serious and grim, not at all what you would expect from a Jackie Chan movie, but then, it’s not really a Jackie Chan movie. He’s simply the audience’s entrance into the story. It’s almost like Taken, or one of the old Charles Brosnan revenge flicks.
8 out of 10 – ranking high because it was better than I expected.