Stunts, thrills, and feels.
Most of us know Jackie Chan as the carefree and comedic martial artist. However, Jackie Chan grew up training through the China Drama Academy, a Peking Opera school- meaning that he underwent arduous instruction not only in martial arts, but also in weapons training, acrobatics, and acting. When watching The Foreigner, you get just a glimpse of the actual depth and skill of Jackie Chan’s acting abilities.
In the first few moments of the film, we see Ngoc Minh Quan’s (played by Jackie Chan) daughter walk into a store that is subsequently bombed by a terrorist. It is in these heart-wrenching scenes of Quan grieving that the audiences can truly see the brilliance of Jackie Chan’s acting.
It is a story of loss and empowerment, and a flip of the traditional Asian American stereotypes in film.
Throughout the rest of the fast-paced thriller, Quan continues to escalate his investigations of the terrorists. It is soon revealed that he is a retired Special Forces agent and no one to be trifled with. Starring alongside Pierce Brosnan who plays the Irish Deputy Minister, Liam Hennessy, Quan is initially made to seem like a frail old immigrant that is simply heartbroken from his loss. However, as the plot develops, Hennessy begins to fear Chan and his abilities. It is a story of loss and empowerment, and a flip of the traditional Asian American stereotypes in film. Yes, Quan is an immigrant and is trained in martial arts, but he is neither stupid, stereotyped, or exaggerated. With a steely resolve and an unstoppable drive, Quan’s character portrays depth and wisdom.
In fact, Quan’s character likely struck a chord with many immigrants and their children. Growing up with immigrant parents, I noticed how often our parents are treated with disdain. Even if they are citizens, they are still treated as a perpetual foreigner. Their accents are mocked and they are often seen as nuisances. When Hennessy first meets Quan, you can hear his visible sigh of annoyance as he deals with just another ‘China man.’ However, Quan proves over and over that he is more than that stereotype. He is trained in all types of combat skills and strategy, and Hennessy quickly sees him as an equal or more.
It is our dream that our parents be given the same respect as Quan was given. That their past tragedies are not treated with pity, but with a deep regard for their strength. That their accents are only there because they speak several other languages, much more fluently and brilliantly than most of us can speak English. That they are enterprising, resourceful, and a formidable force to be reckoned with.
My family originated from China, escaped the Cultural Revolution to Vietnam, and then fled from Saigon when it fell. Seeing Quan with a similar background resonated on a deeper level with me. It makes me wonder- what if everyone could see my mother as the independent and unconquerable woman that she is instead of just another ‘China woman.’
Critics may say that The Foreigner’s plot leaves more to be desired, but for an immigrant child like me- it was exactly what I needed to see.