MOVIE BUFF-ET: Chan’s performance is at the heart of ‘The Foreigner’

STX Entertainment

Jackie Chan’s latest movie “The Foreigner” is an anachronism. It’s a movie that would have been right at home in the early to mid-1980s when revenge-action movies were at their height.

From my standpoint, that’s not an issue. I like old things. Chan is old in this film, showing all of his 63 years in his stooped shoulders, slow gate, and wrinkled face, but those qualities make the film all the more poignant as he methodically and ruthlessly seeks out the terrorists responsible for the brutal murder of his daughter in a department store bombing.

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Chan and director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale and Golden Eye) take the time to show us the pain and grief that Ngoc Minh Quan (Chan) feels within every inch of his body, and it’s such careful touches of storytelling that separates “The Foreigner” from being just another cookie-cutter revenge flick.

Most of Chan’s films have that extra dose of heart, and that is what made him a star first in his native Hong Kong and later internationally, not just his exceptional physical and martial arts skills. He’s the Charlie Chaplin of martial arts, and while he is no longer as nimble and quick as he once was, we don’t care because there is something about his personality that makes us buy him as a butt-kicker well past his prime.

That said Chan’s skills are still masterful, and the stunts he pulls off in the film are dynamic and brutal. He certainly proves to the British and Irish police and bureaucrats that his character is not a man to be trifled with.

Pierce Brosnan plays Liam Hennessy, a former IRA boss turned government official, who takes a little bit too much for granted as he attempts to manipulate an outcome that gets out of hand. Chan’s character is now a restaurant owner and family man but he once was a U.S. special forces operative who served in Vietnam, and while he has aged, his training does not fail him as he seeks to ferret out those responsible for his daughter’s death.

Brosnan seeks to sweep Chan to the side, but that’s just not going to happen. By underestimating Chan, Brosnan is pushed to the brink.

The film might be considered a bit xenophobic in its symbolism as a warning to the West not to underestimate the will and the nerve of the East, but that’s probably taking the film more seriously than I should.

All in the all, the movie is a well-crafted action thriller that was fun to watch unfold although the outcome was never really in doubt.

Grade: B

Classic Corner

No Time for Sergeants

Whether it was from his eponymously named 1960s sitcom, his 1980s law drama “Matlock” or any of the dozens of his other films, albums, and TV show appearances, Andy Griffith is known and loved by just about everyone.

What’s somewhat interesting is that Griffith first earned popularity portraying a character that was much more like “The Andy Griffith Show” character Gomer Pyle than Sheriff Andy Taylor.

In 1955 Griffith stared in a “The United States Steel Hour” teleplay of “No Time for Sergeants,” which was based on Mac Hyman’s hilarious, best-selling novel of that same name. The novel and the teleplay is a fictionalized and hyperbolized version of Hyman’s service in the military during World War II.

The teleplay was such a hit that it was adapted into a Broadway play by Ira Levin in which Griffith earned a Tony nomination. That led to the the film version in 1958, just a year after Griffith stunned audiences will a raucous yet dark performance in Elia Kazan’s populist critique “A Face in the Crowd.”

The movie was a hit and spirited Griffith to even greater popularity. The film also featured Don Knotts, who masterfully played Barney Fife on Griffith’s TV show, in his film debut, and the comedic chemistry and timing between the two was just as magical in the film as it was a few years down the road on the TV show.

The hayseed humor and down-home laughs hold up surprisingly well today. If you’re a fan of Griffith, you’ve probably already seen this movie, but if you haven’t, it’s definitely worth checking out for the quality of the production itself and to watch the genesis of one of the great TV partnerships in Griffith and Knotts.

TCM airs No Time for Sergeants Saturday at 7 p.m. Central.