The Foreigner is a mostly sharp revenge thriller that subverts typical genre stereotypes while still exhibiting a heartfelt, career-changing performance from Jackie Chan. While there are some stumbles regarding the giving of information, this is largely a fine piece of work that Director Martin Campbell and Jackie Chan should be proud of. With above average video and audio transfers, this Blu-ray is easily Recommended, especially for anyone longing for a good 90s-type, Mel Gibson style revenge flick.
As an action star, what do you do when you are past your prime? Even Arnold Schwarzenegger struggled with this problem (and has never really recovered). I have always admired the approach of taking on more dramatically challenging roles, rather than pursuing the fool's errand trying to sidestep the issue. That is what I can imagine was going through Jackie Chan’s head when he decided to star in The Foreigner, a Martin Campbell film tailor-made for actors like Liam Neeson or Mel Gibson.
Jackie Chan is captivating as Quan Ngoc Minh, an older, more modest man who immigrated to Britain in the 90's and opened a restaurant. Right off the bat, The Foreigner diverges from the norm in the first scene. Quan is out with his daughter, Fan (Katie Leong), when she dies in a terrorist attack. The film uses this to great effect as an unconventional way of getting to know Quan: who he is, and what he was as a person through how he processes this life-changing event. Unfortunately, it keeps you at a distance from his daughter and prevents you from really feeling anything for her. And I soon learned that in order to enjoy The Foreigner, you have to accept that certain revenge thriller elements will be given short shrift for the sake of telling this particular story freshly. All of our sympathies are meant to be with Quan and his grief, and it is in that respect The Foreigner absolutely succeeds. Chan gives what might be his most emotional performance ever.
There is a political message revolving around the conflict between Ireland and Britain, which is handled oddly. It turns out the terrorists in London were rogue IRA (Irish Republican Army) agents. So, as retired IRA head Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan) goes on the British news to comment on the situation, Quan sees that Hennessy knows more than he is letting on. After repeated pleas for assistance in finding the terrorists, Quan decides to take the fight to him.
The action here is the kind of action I like. It says something about who Quan is as a person, and gives us insight into the mystery of who he was before he immigrated to Britain. With that being said, if you aren’t up on your history, you might not know why the attack happened in the first place. There is a long and complicated history between Ireland and England that gets glossed over and barely referenced here that is key to understanding the terrorists’ motivations. But that isn’t where our focus is here. There is a great way of maintaining the audience, by revealing who Quan is little by little and having that carry out in its action sequences that you don’t see every day. Even though The Foreigner gets into some trouble with its politics and what it chooses to tell us, it is a well-acted revenge flick that subverts expectations and left me anxiously awaiting the next showdown.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Universal Studios releases The Foreigner with the typical slipcover to hardcover packaging. Enclosed is a BD-50 Blu-ray and DVD copy with (for some reason) no digital download. The usual skippable trailers precede a still image main menu with navigation options from there.
The Foreigner seeks revenge on Blu-ray, with a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encode that is truly better than one might expect. Framed at a 2:39.1 aspect ratio, and shot digitally with the Arri Alexa Xt camera at a 2K digital intermediate, this looks incredibly clear and detailed. As the film goes on and we get Quan in the woods, we see every speck of dirt on his face as he hunts his prey. We also see every blemish on Jackie’s face as he bares his age for everybody to see here like never before.
With its washed-out color palette, I expected The Foreigner to have more of a flat look with lightened black levels. I am impressed with the deep blacks and dimensionality on display here. Even while characters stand next to a blown-out window, the details on their face never fade or reflect the light. It is a testament to how well done this transfer is, and how effective the Arri Alexa line can be.
The Foreigner plots your home theaters demise with a 7.1 DTS-HD MA track that serves the film quite well. Every explosion thrusts itself through your field of sound with concussive force. Hand to hand combat action bring a wide speaker separation as Jackie swipes across the screen in true Jackie form. Quieter moments reveal great detail and nuance as atmospheric noise fills the soundstage. I was surprised with the attention to detail that went into this mix and how immersive the smallest detail made the biggest difference. Dialogue and volume levels are also exactly where they need to be. I came in not expecting much from this mix, but came out pleasantly surprised by how effective it was at setting a mood and creating an immersive experience.
The Making of The Foreigner (HD 2:17) – a small look at the film to give people a taste of the plot, characters, and stunts.
Interviews (HD 27:58) – Martin Campbell, Jackie Chan, and Pierce Brosnan get interviewed about their roles in the film and what it meant to them.
Theatrical Trailer #1 (HD 2:07)
Theatrical Trailer #2 (HD 1:43)
The Foreigner is a truly unique revenge flick with a fresh perspective. It takes all the typical cues from the genre and twists them just enough to feel new, while giving itself its own voice. Some storytelling stumbling blocks prevent us from caring about select secondary characters. But where they lack, Jackie Chan succeeds in a role that could feel tired and rote. Add in a Blu-ray with better production values then I expected, and this is most certainly Recommended.