“Names!”

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One of the films I was really excited to see this fall was The Foreigner.  The trailer looked fantastic and I was really looking forward to seeing Jackie Chan as I’m pretty sure the last films I saw him in were The Forbidden Kingdom and Kung Fu Panda back in 2008.  I was really looking forward to seeing his performance, especially since The Foreigner is much darker than any of the other films I have seen him in.  This movie is definitely a fun action flick but there’s not really anything particularly unique or thought provoking about it.  I enjoyed it and had fun watching it, but at the end of the day it’s just another action film I can cross off my to-watch list.

The film moves back and forth between two main story lines: one centered around Quan Ngoc Minh (Jackie Chan), and another centered around Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan).  These two stories converge around an IRA bombing in London and although Minh’s story is more prominent at the beginning and end of the film, the bulk of the middle of the film revolves around Hennessy.  Now this isn’t a bad thing, but I was just hoping for a bit more Jackie Chan.  Pierce Brosnan does a fantastic job as a crooked politician/IRA member and he presents Hennessy as a shady character right from the beginning – until the end, you’re never quite sure how much he actually knows about the bombing and the events surrounding it, or what his level of involvement is.  Hennessey’s scenes are good, however there is a wonderful scene where Minh beats the crap out of some IRA thugs in a boarding house and I would have loved if there were at least double the amount of those kinds of scenes in the film.  I noticed in the credits that this film is based off of a book and I feel like that kind of back-and-forth story line would have played out really well on the page but in this film I’m not entirely sure if it was well executed – I’m still on the fence about this so I’ll just say that it was well done, but not flawlessly.

There were some interesting choices made concerning Jackie Chan’s character Minh, and although there’s not necessarily anything unique about his character development it was certainly well presented.  Minh never actually kills anyone until he finds those responsible, and I really enjoyed that aspect of his character.  However, his incessant demands for “names” got a little silly after a while.  It was really funny but I’m not so sure that was meant to be funny.  Also, we never actually get to learn that much about him.  All we can tell from his actions is that he has absolutely nothing left to lose and will do what it takes to get his revenge.  Everything we learn about Minh is from what the audience can piece together from flashbacks, written text, or the very little he shares about himself – we’re never really told outright all there is to know about this character.  So even though we understand his motivations and the events that have brought him to this point we never truly know who Minh is as a person.  Even the opening of the film helps to set this up because the opening scene with him and his daughter actually has very little exposition – it is a father and daughter running errands and something bad happens.  There’s no long drawn out explanation as to who these characters are – we are merely shown who they are in those moments before tragedy strikes and I liked how fast paced those opening scenes were.  In a film where it is up to the audience to determine who knows what and who is fighting for which side, it’s nice not to have our time wasted by too much backstory.  We’re in the moment and we have to figure out whether the characters are good, bad, or in between as the events unfold before our eyes.

There were a few things that really bugged me.  The camera angles were absolutely fantastic and I loved how a lot of shots were film through mirrors and windows so there is this sense that the characters are being watched.  But in my opinion the soundtrack just didn’t work, so it was frustrating to have the film look so good but sound so bad.  I’m really not sure what they were going for in terms of the soundtrack so this was frustrating given that much more thought seemed to have been put into the other elements of the film.  Then there’s the scene where Minh and Lam (Tao Liu) are having a conversation in Chinese…  And then in the next scene she sends him a text in English.  In fact, I’m pretty sure they never speak English to one another so it just felt really weird that the text was English.  I get that this is probably for the convenience of non-Asian audience members but it was still an annoying detail.  Finally, the part that made absolutely no sense to me was the dog at the end of the film.  That tiny dog belonging to the landlady where the IRA members are hiding raises a lot of questions:  What happened to the landlady and why did Minh take her dog instead of leaving it in the building?  And then why does he abandon the dog at a bus stop in the next scene?  What is going to happen to the dog and why did we even need to see any of that when it had no relevance to the plot?

So if you have a chance to see this film it is definitely a lot a fun but, you really don’t need to pay for any extras (i.e. 3D, AVX, DBox, VIP, etc, etc…) 1 It’s just a typical action film that’s exciting to watch in theatres but you may or may not remember it a month or two from now.  In the end, it was a fun day out, I enjoyed it for what it was, and I’m glad I saw it but that’s about it.

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