In this episode of NBNtertainment Weekly's Fresh Films, David Gordon, Marcus Galeano, and Elliot Kronsberg feel out of place with The Foreigner. Recommendation: check it out if you see it while channel surfing. Transcript below.
[Little Glass Men: “Modulation and Spirit”]
David Gordon: This is Fresh Films, and we are a podcast dedicated to reviewing movies that are currently in theatres. And my name is David Gordon. And with me today, we have…
Marcus Galeano: Marcus Galeano.Elliot Kronsberg: Elliot Kronsberg.
David: Great. Okay. So this week we saw The Foreigner. So who wants to tell us a little bit about what The Foreigner is about?
Elliot: Okay, so The Foreigner: It’s the newest Martin Campbell pic about a Chinese immigrant who wants to take revenge on the people who killed his daughter. It seems like a Taken rip-off, but you soon learn that they don’t trust Jackie Chan to carry a whole movie. So they’ve brought in Pierce Brosnan to also star… co-star.
David: Okay. Great.
Marcus: Sort of in a… As I understand from when I watched the movie that Jackie Chan’s daughter was killed as sort of a collateral damage in a terrorist bombing by what is a new sect of the IRA. And Pierce Brosnan plays an older IRA member from, like, the ‘90s. What it ‘80s or ‘90s?
David: I don’t remember.
Marcus: He’s now sort of like this deputy minister in the British government [See Sinn Féin], and he’s tasked with finding this new sect of the IRA and bringing them to justice. And all the while, Jackie Chan is sort of hounding Pierce Brosnan, trying to get him to tell him the names of the bombers, when initially, Pierce Brosnan doesn’t even know. And he’s just trying to appease both sides and investigate. I’d say, the first act of this movie, the acting by Jackie Chan is legitimately excellent.
Marcus: Just the way he conveys just this brokenness of losing his daughter, and he does it with, like, so little dialogue, but you can just see it all on his face. Really…It really does just make you feel “Ahh!” – pain. And I’d say the first ten minutes – and by extension, most of the first act of this movie – is good, mainly because of Jackie Chan.
David: Yeah, Jackie Chan’s performance is certainly one of the best elements of this film. He conveys the desired emotions very well. Perhaps that is partially due to the fact that his character is supposed to be tired and beaten down and desperate over the years, much like Jackie Chan is himself. He’s reaching the end of his acting career and/or life, so…
Marcus: Jesus! You don’t have to be so morbid about it. Christ!
Marcus: We still love Jackie Chan.
Elliot: I mean, in real life, he’s like sixty-ish, so I don’t know if that’s the end of his acting career.
David: That’s true. That’s true. He could pull Liam Neeson and do Non-Stop and…
Marcus: Unlike Liam Neeson, he can actually fight, which is actually highlighted in this movie. There’s only about two action set-pieces, which I think is a misstep. The two that he has are good. To his credit, like, you do see Jackie Chan take some licks. He’s not invincible. He’s taking some hits, but I’d say the action’s good.
David: Yeah, definitely. The action was all passable and entertaining enough, but a lot of the action is sideline in favor of political drama, family drama, what we believe to be an incest subplot, and a whole lot of backstory.
Elliot: Wait, where does the incest subplot come in?
Marcus: Pierce Brosnan’s nephew - was it – is sleeping with Pierce Brosnan’s wife.
David: Which isn’t really incest, but it’s still…
Marcus: I think it’s incest.
David: Is it? Is it technically?
Marcus: I don’t the incest…
Elliot: They’re not related by blood. It’s like his nephew on his side of the family.
Marcus: It’s still fucked up.
Elliot: And then his wife, who he’s not related to by blood, just by marriage. So they’re related by marriage. They are aunt and nephew, but they’re not blood-related. It’s not weird. I mean…
Marcus: Unlike Game of Thrones, there aren’t like seven seasons to sort of normalize the whole thing.
David: Yeah. But anyway, we talk a lot about the drama in this film, and it’s all about Pierce Brosnan kind of running politics while Jackie Chan runs around on the side and tries to perform action stunts. However, in this case, Jackie Chan’s lines of action never quite intersect with the rest of the film. And, in this regard, I would say there’s actually no main character in this film.
Elliot: I don’t know. I would say that it’s definitely dual protagonists. I think that Jackie Chan is our introduction, our entry-point into the film, as the “Foreigner.” But it’s really a political thriller about Pierce Brosnan’s attempt to find out who is committing these bombings so that they don’t mess up a peace agreement between Northern Ireland – the U.K. – and Ireland – the Republic of Ireland.
Marcus: I’d say, like, the two storylines, they don’t feel like they ever really converge, thematically especially. And narrative-wise, they do sort of converge, but like, Jackie Chan’s actions, they don’t really seem to have much bearing on Pierce Brosnan’s hunt for these actual terrorists. The way this film was advertised, it almost seemed like it was sort of a Taken or ‘90s Seagal flick, except instead of these macho American guys, there’s like a more humble, reserved hero in Jackie Chan. And I was game for that. I would have wanted to see that. I would like to see Jackie Chan helm more movies like this, but not this. I would like to see him take on sort of like these Liam Neeson-y action thriller roles because I think he could add something new to the game. And this sort of humble character, unlike a lot of these Liam Neeson-y guys, actually knows how to fight.
Marcus: And can pull off a convincing action scene.
David: Another point I’d like to touch on is the sound design of the film because, I mentioned this, it almost has like a horror movie sound design in some ways. Like, a little bit like Silence of the Lambs-esque and A Serbian Film-esque, which really struck me as odd, considering that a lot of the moments when this horror score comes in are not moments of action, but rather are moments of drama or intimate connection between characters. And I would feel that this sort of action/horror music would be far more appropriate in scenes where the characters are in peril.
Elliot: You mentioned Silence of the Lambs. That’s not really an action movie.
David: Correct. That’s why I talked about the score being out of place here, in an action film.
Elliot: I mean, I feel like what we’ve been saying for the past ten minutes is that, even though it was marketed as an action film, that is only a very small part of it, that, really, it’s like a political thriller with Jackie Chan doing some action things and a couple gunshots.
David: Okay, then how does the score fit in?
Elliot: I don’t actually remember the score, but I do remember Silence of the Lambs.
David: Okay. Unfortunately, we’re not talking about Silence of the Lambs. Okay, so I feel like we have nothing more to say on the topic. So let’s just move into final thoughts.
Marcus: It’s fine. I often refrain from an appraisal like that when trying to give a review because I try to be more detailed, but it’s okay. It’s passable. When it comes on… on a midday weekend screening on, like, AMC or TNT or USA, give it a watch maybe. Maybe you’ll enjoy it more than we did. It never achieves the level of quality that it hints at in its finer moments, like in the first ten minutes especially and Jackie Chan’s great performance in the first act. But yeah, it’s fine.
David: Who would you recommend this to?
Marcus: Middle-aged people, Jackie Chan fans especially. That’s about it.
David: Yeah, so what I thought about this movie. I’m in much the same boat as Marcus. The narrative is intriguing in the political aspects. However, the actions scenes, which are the only things that remain entertaining, are completely separate from this political drama, which prevents me from caring about either side of the narrative. Jackie Chan is a character in the most simplistic sense of the word in that he is a person who appears onscreen and does stunts, but aside from that, he has no real bearing on narrative. And that kind of caused me to lose a lot of connection with the film, and therefore, a lot of interest. Like I touched on earlier, the sound design doesn’t quite fit either, which is quite unfortunate because, if none of the technical aspects of the film are working in unison nor is the script engaging, then I can’t really connect to the film on any level. However, in terms of positives, all the performances are decent, with Jackie Chan being a particular standout, and the action choreography is quite solid and entertaining. So I would recommend this to people who are sitting at home late at night. They’ve seen all the Liam Neeson movies. What next? They flip on the channel. This movie is on. Jackie Chan isn’t quite the same as Liam Neeson, but he’s an appropriate substitute for a night. Elliot, what are your final thoughts?
Elliot: I mean, we keep comparing Jackie Chan to Liam Neeson. This is definitely Jackie Chan’s most serious role. Even in his Hong Kong action films, they were straight action films. There usually was not this political thriller aspect or dead daughters or something like that. So I don’t know if I could see him doing a lot more of these because, if he’s not playing this ex-Special Forces, wounded man living in the shadows, I don’t really know what sort of serious character he could be. Now, this film, like David said, the script wasn’t strong, but I kind of saw the two separate stories as complimentary in that you came for the action film that was promised, and you didn’t get that, but you did get a political thriller, which was fun. I would like to see more IRA political thrillers. I think maybe I’ll just go home and watch The Crying Game. The technical aspects of this film: nothing jumped out to me in terms of the sound. I thought that the camerawork was fairly smooth, so it's not like a Bourne film or that “kinetic action” of a Matthew Vaughn film, like Kingsman or Kick-Ass. It reminds me of, like, Taken. The only technical aspect that really jumped out was editing because I do remember several moments where there was sort of this Godard-esque jump-cut when there really did not need to be. We just see him in a shot and he’ll disappear in a jump-cut, and you’ll be like, “That’s not sneaky or cool. That’s just a camera trick. I guess I’d recommend it to people who like political thrillers, people who like Jackie Chan movies – even though this is not really like most Jackie Chan movies. Maybe I should say: If you like Liam Neeson action films, you’ll like this one. Just, it’s Jackie Chan instead.
David: Okay. Great. Awesome. So that’s all we have to say about The Foreigner by Martin Campbell. So this was Fresh Films, and we will see you again. Bye.
David: Thank you to Little Glass Men for the intro & outro to the episode, “Modulation of the Spirit.”
Elliot: This has been Fresh Films from NBN Audio. Catch us online at northbynorthwestern.com.
[Little Glass Men: “Modulation and Spirit”]