The trailer for the new Jackie Chan/Pierce Brosnan action flick, “The Foreigner,” dropped around the world on Monday, and one wouldn’t be blamed for thinking this may mark the reemergence of the man who once heralded so much attention in American theaters with action-packed romps like “Rumble in the Bronx.” Chan has become a legend in Hollywood for his dangerous stunt work, though he’s been absent from America’s summer blockbuster industry for a number of years now. The old adage, “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” may not be accurate in Chan’s case, however, as he’s stayed rather busy in his home country of China.
Busy doing what, you ask? Well, making movies of course. Oh, and disparaging America in the media, becoming an outspoken member of the Communist party in China, and even suggesting that Chinese citizens have “too much freedom.”
When asked about the United States of America in 2013, Chan called it “The most corrupt in the world,” while criticizing Chinese citizens for voicing complaints about their own national government in the press.
“Where does this Great Breakdown [financial crisis] come from? It started exactly from the world, the United States. When I was interviewed in the U.S., people asked me, I said the same thing. I said now that China has become strong, everyone is making an issue of China.”
Chan can’t be blamed for harboring a patriotic sense of duty to his own nation, but it does seem surprising that he’d go on the offensive regarding the U.S., whose film industry made him an international super star. However, despite Chan’s willingness to throw America under the bus, his political leanings haven’t won him a great deal of support from the Chinese public.
In December of 2013, Chan was heavily criticized by many Chinese citizens, particularly citizens of the semi-independent Hong Kong, on social media sites after he suggested China introduce legislation limiting the rights of citizens to protest, as he was distressed that the Chinese people are allowed to “scold China, scold the leaders, scold anything, and protest against anything.”
“There should be regulations on what can and cannot be protested,” Chan said.
This wasn’t the first time Chan spoke out in support of anti-democratic laws, or for Beijing. In 2009, Chan told the Boao Forum for Asia that the Chinese people “need to be controlled.”
“I’m not sure if it’s good to have freedom or not,” Chan said to the crowd. “I’m really confused now. If you’re too free, you’re like the way Hong Kong is now. It’s very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic.”
“I’m gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we’re not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want.”
Chan’s support for Beijing may not be winning him a lot of love on Chinese social media, but it’s garnered him a fair amount of support from the Chinese government. They made Chan a national-level delegate of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in 2013, one of the country’s most prominent political advisory bodies. While Chan’s appointment doesn’t provide him with the ability to directly vote on legislation, it serves as a form of official seal of approval on Chan and his work from the Chinese government.
Although tempering his anti-U.S. rhetoric in public appearances since, Chan celebrated the initial success of his movie, “Warcraft” last year by announcing to a crowd of mostly Chinese viewers that it may mark a transition away from the popularity of American movies around the world.
“Warcraft made 600 million RMB [$91 million] in two days — this has scared the Americans,” Chan said. “If we can make a film that earns 10 billion [$1.5 billion], then people from all over the world who study film will learn Chinese, instead of us learning English,” he added.
Chan’s movie “Kung Fu Yoga” that was released early in 2017 also drew criticism for its use of an Indian character shown repeatedly praising President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which is a Chinese led “connectivity project” the Indian government has thus far declined to join. The movie, which was released in India as well as China, has been called “brazen political propaganda” by critics in both states.
“Kung Fu Yoga” was so heavily laden with pro-Chinese propaganda that Maggie Lee, chief Asia film critic for Variety magazine, wondered if the movie could have survived in its current form if Indian investors originally tied to the film hadn’t pulled out.
“However, co-producer Viacom 18, one of Bollywood’s biggest studios, soon pulled out. If the partnership had worked, one wonders if Tong [the film’s director] would still get away with Chan’s character preaching incessantly to Indians about their history to the point where the villain yells, ‘Stop teaching me about my own country!’ Or such brazen promotion of China’s political agenda as having the Indian protagonist exonerate the One Road, One Belt policy,” she wrote in her review.
All of this begs the question: is Chan’s presence in this new Hollywood movie another attempt at marketing Chinese propaganda to foreign audiences? Well, the trailer certainly seems like there’s the potential for it.
In the trailer, Jackie Chan plays a highly trained Chinese operative turned London Chinatown restaurateur who loses his daughter in an IRA bombing. Chan’s character then takes on Brosnan, who plays a corrupt British government official, for his involvement in the attack.
Without seeing the film, the plot allots significant opportunity for Chan to play the role of Chinese patriot facing off with Western corruption. The book the movie is based on is, after all, called “The Chinaman.”
The trailer goes on to show Chan bombing a government building and setting assorted traps for the British official and his men, accompanied by the tagline, “Never push a good man too far.”
Now, it is important to note that lots of great action movies are based on the premise of a corrupt government official (or body) targeting an innocent individual or trying to keep their nefarious deeds under wraps – that in itself isn’t what’s troubling about Chan’s presence in this new film, but rather it’s how closely that plot seems to echo Chan’s own sentiments about the West that warrants concern. As a man who’s faced repeated criticism for using his movies as a mouthpiece for Chinese interests, depicting a “good man” that’s forced to take on Western governments because of their corruption makes it hard to ignore his own statements regarding the “corruption” of the United States.
To be fair, this movie could be a great action ride, and may even be entirely on the level when it comes to its representation of the governments and nations depicted within it… but even if it is, do you want your money to go toward funding a resurgence in Chan’s American career?
Should people who live in the country Chan refers to as “the most corrupt” in the world go see a movie starring a man that uses his notoriety to claim that he’s “not sure if it’s good to have freedom?”
Sure, plenty of Americans in Hollywood have ridiculous political beliefs too, but few (if not none) of them also hold an appointed office within the Chinese government, nor have they demonstrated such a proclivity for incorporating those politics into their work in a manner intended to benefit a foreign government.
For my money, I’ll just re-watch an old DVD copy of Rush Hour, and skip this one. Thanks anyway.
You can see the trailer for “The Foreigner” below.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Trailer courtesy of STX Entertainment
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