The Foreigner - Hollywood finally gets it right with Jackie Chan (again)
2017 was a pretty kick-ass year for Jackie Chan. Not only did he start the year off by winning an honourary Oscar, he ends it by making his best film in a long time. By my standards, I'd say that this is his best film since New Police Story in 2004 (2011's Shaolin's up there as well, but that was more of a cameo appearance). More importantly, for the first time since the Rush Hour franchise (and maybe The Karate Kid remake), Hollywood gets it right and casts Jackie Chan in a role that does right by him. The Foreigner's a pretty awesome film, and Jackie Chan delivers one of his most measured performances in a very, very long time.
With The Foreigner, Chan is in his element at full force. And the element I'm referring to leans more towards his acting abilities, rather than his choreographed physicality. Sure, there's still action scenes and he's portrayed as a bonafide ex-special forces operative, but he also gets a chance to flex his acting muscles here. It's also notably the first time that audiences not familiar with Asian cinema get to see this side of Jackie Chan. He's had more dramatic roles in Hong Kong, with Shinjuku Incident being the one example where he went full drama and no action. That effort wasn't as effective for a number of reasons (mostly because of the movie itself, and not necessary because of his performance), but Chan is perfect in The Foreigner. It's a role you really can't see anyone else doing, which is the same sentiment I had with the Rush Hour franchise. It's the difference between a Hollywood movie needing Jackie Chan, versus him just showing up solely because he wanted to get a paycheque.
Let's face it, Jackie Chan will always be portraying characters of Asian descent who knows how to throw a punch or two in Hollywood. There's nothing wrong with that, and it's what audiences (myself included) want. But for anyone who's been following his career over the past 40 years, you'll know that Jackie Chan can do much more than just fight and provide slapstick comic relief. He's got real acting chomps, and at this stage of his career, he should be diving in this end of the pool with all his acting choices. Why he chooses to make movies like Kung Fu Yoga and Skiptrace is beyond me, and seeing how good he is in The Foreigner just makes me wish that he were a bit more selective. But no matter how many campy films he pushes out in what is surely the last stretches of his prolific career, I'll always be a fan and admirer. And all venting aside, even if he only makes a movie like The Foreigner once every 10 years, I'd still be a pretty happy camper.