Legendary action star and martial arts maestro Jackie Chan gets his “Taken” moment with the terrorism thriller “The Foreigner,” co-starring as a man seeking vengeance for the death of his daughter in a bloody London bombing.
His counterpart is a grizzled Pierce Brosnan, growling his way into a meaty and morally ambiguous role as former IRA member and Irish Deputy Minister Liam Hennessy, attempting to politick his way around the aftermath of the bombing, which is claimed by a rogue IRA cell.
Chan’s role is brooding, serious and simple. He wants names. Names of those responsible for his daughter’s death. Rebuffed by the police and government, he relies on tricks developed in the jungles of Vietnam, honed by U.S. Special Forces. He detonates bombs with notes reading “Names” all around Hennessy’s Belfast stomping grounds. He plants jungle traps, ensnaring Hennessy’s thugs. All just to get some face time with the minister.
Chan, now in his 60s, isn’t the tornado of whirling kicks and punches he once was, but he’s still got it. His fighting style in the film is brutish, resourceful and extremely effective. Brosnan deploys his suaveness, talking out of both sides of his mouth to British politicians and his cabal of former (or are they?) IRA militants.
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It’s a refreshing change to see Chan in this more serious role, but he isn’t given much to do. When he isn’t in motion, he stares vacantly, communicating his shock and trauma, his character merely a violent automaton.
The IRA revival storyline hampers the father’s revenge plot and vice versa. We never dig deep enough to truly care about any of the characters or even the plot twists. “The Foreigner” feels like halves of two different (and probably good) movies pasted together and now it doesn’t make much sense.
This vigilante justice story, standard fare for the aging action star, could have signaled a new turn in Chan’s career, but he has to share this movie with Brosnan’s far more fascinating plot about dynasties of terrorism. Unfortunately, neither star receives a fair shake in “The Foreigner.”
Rated R for violence, language and some sexual material.