When mentioning Jackie Chan, you may instantly think of characters who clown around while performing acrobatic kung fu moves, but the upcoming thriller The Foreigner sees Chan play a very different character: A grey-haired and bitter old man seeking revenge.
Adapted from Stephen Leather’s novel The Chinaman, The Foreigner follows Quan (Chan), a London restaurant owner, as he tries to find the culprit behind the terrorist bomb attack that killed his daughter. While Quan’s past identity as a killer for the Viet Cong and Americans in Vietnam is revealed during his search, as is the secret background of a British government official played by Pierce Brosnan.
Set for a release in the Chinese mainland on September 30 and the US on October 13, the film’s director Martin Campbell, known for two James Bond films and the Last Resort TV drama, sat down with the Global Times in Beijing to discuss the film.
Barriers to going overseas: It has been six years since Campbell’s last film Green Lantern hit theaters. What brought the 73-year-old filmmaker back behind the camera was how the script interested him.
“[It] attracted me first,” Campbell told the Global Times. “First of all it was a good story. All great characters… There’s a whole political-back story to Pierce [Brosnan] that is really interesting. So, much more complex than the average thriller. So really that was why I did it.”
Throughout the interview Campbell didn’t hide his admiration of Chan, nor did he hesitate to point out some of the problems facing today’s film industry.
“He is exceptionally mastered,” Campbell said of Chan’s acting ability. “I think when you look at the film, you will see exactly how he masters it. He is terrific in that.”
While Chan is mostly well-known for his comedic roles, Campbell said that he noticed Chan played a serious role very well inThe Karate Kid. “And this, I realized that he was probably built to do this very well. And he did. He is excellent.”
Despite the fact that Chan might be the most famous Chinese star in the world, recent years have seen new younger faces gaining global attention.
For example Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen’s performances in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story were impressive and action star Wu Jing has become a world-wide name with his box-office hit Wolf Warrior 2, the highest earning Chinese film ever.
Nevertheless, Campbell still thinks Chan is one of a kind.
“There is no one like him. No one does action like him. And his particular action I think is very unique. And I think his comedy is very unique,” he told the Global Times, adding that though there are many up and coming younger actors from China, they are still not good enough to stand out from the crowd.
“You know, the problem here with Chinese actors is how good their English is… I think for any young Chinese actor to make it in the rest of the world, they have to speak, be able to speak English fluently,” the director said, speaking about what he feels is the major roadblock standing in the way of Chinese actors going to the world stage.
“I think what’s happening in the Chinese market… This is a terrific opportunity for them to do international movies because there are not that many, who work or who come to Hollywood… At the moment, there are very few,” he added.
As the New Zealand director pointed out, the expanding Chinese film market has attracted quite a few foreign filmmakers looking to get a piece of pie, while policy favoring Sino-foreign coproductions has also helped make China more attractive. Yet, few attempts at coproductions have succeeded either financially or critically.
For example, 2013’s Iron Man 3, 2014’s Outcast and Transformers: Age of Extinction, and last year’s The Great Wall all didn’t perform as anticipated either financially or when it came to audience reaction.
Campbell said that he has received some scripts from foreign studios looking to incorporate Chinese elements, but most of them have been lackluster.
“A bunch of American mercenaries team up with some Chinese mercenaries and fight the Japanese. It’s all set in 1937,” Campbell told the Global Times.
“It’s because the Chinese market is so strong at the moment that people think they can write any sort of Chinese characters in them,” he said, going on to describe scripts that shoehorn a bunch of Chinese characters into a story in the hopes of exploiting the Chinese market as “rubbish.”
Depressed Hollywood: Campbell also pointed out that Hollywood isn’t doing too well right now due to an over reliance on blockbuster sequels. “I think the box office is down in America by about 12 percent. And the reason I think is that a lot of these sequels… are just not doing well at the box office because people are tired of them,” he noted.
“When you are seeing ‘Spider-Man 6’ or whatever it is. You’ve seen that film, you know, we have seen that like six times.”
“Pirates of the Caribbean, I mean, do you really want to see another Pirates of the Caribbean. I mean, you know, I don’t. I’m tired of them… So, you get these films which have been going a weekend but the second weekend. Bomb. They don’t perform.”
On the contrary, the TV industry in the US is blossoming.
Noting that he feels the TV industry in the US has entered a “golden age,” Campbell, who also has a few TV drama productions to his credit, pointed out that the writing for many TV show’s has improved, as have the financial rewards.
“But generally it’s because the quality of TV is so good in America now. The drama, and all the cable stations, network TV… are terrific,” he said, pointing to Game of Thrones as an example, “[It] is almost a movie… Every week, a movie on TV.”
— Global Times
The 68th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China.
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily