Jackie Chan stars in this week’s new release The Foreigner from director Martin Campbell. In the movie, he plays Quan, a London businessman whose daughter is killed in an act of random political terrorism. He begins to believe one official in particular, Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), may have answers because of his former ties to terrorist organizations.
Hennessy is less than helpful, though, frustrating Quan’s efforts further. Convinced he’s right, Quan begins following Hennessy and his assistants. When those bodyguards and others turn violent in their efforts to dissuade Quan from further action, they find that he’s far from the aging, grieving father he appears to be and is more than capable of bringing the fight to them.
The poster declares at the top that it comes “From the director of Casino Royale” as a way to solidify its action bonafides. Other than that it’s just Chan standing on a city street looking dispassionately at the aftermath of some sort of mayhem, including a sidewalk that’s on fire and rubble that’s strewn about. “Never push a good man too far” is the very vague and generic copy that’s shared.
You can tell from how much the dad loves his daughter as the trailer opens that we’re in for a bit of violence and emotional manipulation. Soon Quan is at the desk of Mr. Hennessy asking for the names of the bombers, mostly because he believes Hennessy at least knows who they might be and at worst thinks he was involved. So begins a quest for revenge that involves going after those suspected of involvement on his own, taking out henchmen left and right with his fists or his improvised gadgets, meant to show how dangerous he really is.
This looks pretty by the numbers, almost like a remake of that Arnold Schwarzenegger movie that had a similar “man seeking revenge for the death of his family” movie that came out last year. The biggest draw for what otherwise seems like staid material is that it comes from director Martin Campbell.
The next trailer again opens with Quan’s little girl dying in a bomb explosion and being frustrated in his attempts to get answers. So he takes matters into his own hands and goes after those he believes responsible. It’s pretty similar to the first one, just with a few tweaks here and there, so the value proposition to the audience remains unchanged.
Online and Social
Full-screen video of clips pulled from the trailer greet you as you load the official site. Not only is it featured on the front page, along with a “Get Tickets” button, a prompt to watch the trailer and links to the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds, but it will be persistent throughout the rest of the site as well.
“Videos” has both trailers, a couple of the TV commercials and a few clips and featurettes that focus on the stunt work, which isn’t surprising. There are about a half-dozen stills in the “Photos” gallery. Finally, “About” has a short Story synopsis and a Cast & Crew list.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV spots like this one cut to the chase quickly, showing the bombing that sets the revenge-minded events in action and the threat he poses to those he’s deemed responsible. A lot more TV advertising was done, particularly in the month prior to release, with spots that varied from selling the emotion to selling the all-out action. They were all variations on a theme, though, most hitting the same general beats and story points.
Media and Publicity
Chan did some press for the movie, including appearances on late night talk shows, as did Brosnan. There was also a major feature profile of Chan that focused on his inability to rest, the fact that he’s still doing his own stunts at age 63 and more. That’s about it, with most of the rest of the press coverage coming from the release of clips or other marketing materials.
I’ll be honest, when I saw the first trailer I was inclined to pass on including a recap of this campaign here. It seemed light and inconsequential, the kind of unironic action movie that would have turned heads in 1987 but which now seems out of touch. I wasn’t that interested in watching Chan try to hold on a bit longer to this action credentials while involved in a story we’ve seen a number of times from other aging former action stars.
But then it just kept going and I kept checking it out, more interested in it than I was the last time. Eventually I came around to thinking that yes, this may be a slightly tired plot and no, I don’t really need to see what’s being sold here, but it’s being sold well. I’m sure there’s an audience out there who is going to want to revisit Chan’s stunt abilities, and his performance has scored pretty good reviews for its depth and emotion. So while it may seem like the kind of movie that in eight months we’ll all legitimately forget ever happened, it’s been presented with a workable campaign that has taken a good approach to reaching a target audience.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.