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Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: The Foreigner

“It” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.  

Mention the name “Jackie Chan” to me and I’ll immediately conjure up images of his movies from the 1990s in which the ever-daring Chan would perform his own extremely dangerous—and at times death-defying—stunts, all for the entertainment of his audience. To this day, those movies have some of the most exciting, entertaining, and just plain fun fight choreography I’ve ever seen.

Jackie Chan is still ever-daring as ever in “The Foreigner,” but in a different way. Rather than risking his body and limbs to perform all manner of crazy spins, flips, and tricks, Chan takes a more nuanced approach here. He plays Quan Ngoc Minh, a Vietnamese immigrant living in London. Early on a member of a rogue faction of the IRA (that’s Irish Republican Army for you youngsters lucky enough to not recall when bombings by this political organization were far too common) sets off a bomb on a busy London street and kills Quan’s daughter Fan (Katie Leung). She was his only surviving family member, a fact we find out later in flashbacks about Quan’s past.



The broken and distraught Quan wants the names of those responsible for the bombing. To this end, he seeks out a government official in Northern Ireland named    
Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan). Hennessy is a former IRA member whose role is to broker peace with the underground factions of the IRA and the British government. Quan is convinced that Hennessy knows the names but isn’t telling him. Bad news for Hennessy, as Quan is a very determined man who is done playing nice, so he shows off some skills from his past that make him a threat. The cat and mouse chase begins.

Chan’s performance in “The Foreigner” is a bold, new direction for him. As exciting as his earlier movies are, his characters tend to be little more than barely fleshed out folks who know how to fight really well. Quan is different. The years reveal themselves with his gray hair and the lines on his face. After his daughter is killed, Quan appears to withdraw inward, sitting very still and looking very sad. It turns out that he is more like a tiger getting low and ready to pounce than he is someone who is defeated, but we don’t know that until things kick into high gear—and this being a Jackie Chan movie, do they ever. But what we see beforehand is a sad, lived in performance of a man who has experienced great loss and is going through enormous emotional pain. To his credit, Chan brings that out and makes Quan very sympathetic.

The story of “The Foreigner” is comprised of two plots—one involving Quan and another involving Hennessy trying to get to the bottom of things and figuring out who he can and cannot trust amongst his own people. Branching off from this are various other sub-plots that head off into a myriad of directions. With so much happening, it’s easy to lose various threads or have story points come up short. That doesn’t happen with this movie. Director Martin Campbell found the right pacing and hits all of the needed story beats at just the right moments so that what’s happening is clear and flows in a natural way. There are no loose ends once the movie is done, which is an impressive achievement in itself. Buy it on Amazon: The Foreigner [Blu-ray].

Also New This Week

It

Ah, summer during childhood. School’s out and the sun is shining. What better time to get together with your friends to ride bikes, play in the yard, hauk loogies from high places, take a dip in the local swimming hole, and of course, hunt down the monstrous demon dressed like a clown that’s been preying on your town. Leave it to Stephen King, the author whose work “It” is based on, to add in that last one.

The demon clown is named Pennywise, played by actor Bill Skarsgård with a somewhat campy menace. His expressions, movements, and gestures are all exaggerated as if he’s in a silent movie. But Pennywise can talk and we can understand him just fine. From the moment he utters his infamous first line, “Hiya, Georgie,” while standing in a storm drain, we know his intentions are very bad.


Part of the problem with “It” is that it has such an amazingly sinister, tense, and grisly opening that it’s hard for what follows to live up to it. What we get instead are scares that are kinda silly (I laughed out loud when the giant Pennywise came out during the slideshow—I mean, come on) or are just basic and mundane (a scene with a leper plays like something out of a zombie movie). There is a chilling and creepy vibe to some sequences, particularly one that takes place in a maze of underground tunnels, but no scares that shook me and are memorable for being scary.

One thing that has been said about Stephen King’s horror works is that they are so well-written that they don’t even need the horror. This is certainly the case with “It.” I cared about the cast of young characters in this movie, hated their bullies (who were also a bit over the top), and wanted them to stay healthy and alive. I could have watched a pseudo-documentary about these kids hanging out all summer and it would have been entertaining. But “It” is supposed to be a horror movie. As such, it sets a high bar in the beginning that it never lives up to again. Stream it.

More New Releases: “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House,” about the man behind the “Deep Throat” source that broke open the 1974 Watergate scandal, starring Liam Neeson; and “Bullet Head,” about three career criminals who find themselves trapped in a warehouse with the law closing in and an even worse threat waiting inside, starring Adrien Brody, Antonio Banderas, and John Malkovich.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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