The Foreigner

It hints at the past legacy of the Irish “troubles” and at contemporary threats by terrorists, but The Foreigner is really all about the action.

Some mild intrigue is sidelined by a convoluted plot of political conspiracies and personal redemption in this mediocre cat-and-mouse thriller that forgets to include a compelling mystery alongside its abundant mayhem.

The film opens with a harrowing explosion outside a London bank that kills some bystanders including the daughter of Quan (Jackie Chan), a restaurateur whose family has already endured plenty of past tragedies.

Almost deliriously overcome with grief, Quan becomes obsessed with vengeance. Since a rogue offshoot of the defunct Irish Republican Army claims credit for the blast — apparently seeking pardons for the perpetrators of past crimes — Quan contacts Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), a government minister in Northern Ireland with past IRA ties.

While Quan pushes for the names of the attackers, he backs up his persistence with skills learned in his Chinese-born military past, such the ability to manufacture homemade bombs and pummel random thugs. Meanwhile, Hennessy tries to balance the re-emergence of figures from his violent past with his determination to maintain peace in the present.

At 63, Chan proves that he’s still capable of handling the physical demands of an action-hero role, although not with the volume of stunts he staged in his chop-socky classics of yesteryear. Fortunately, he’s also believable in quieter moments of paternal mourning or resilient determination.

Likewise, Brosnan brings depth and complexity to a character still dealing with residual conflicts from his past, both internal and external — his constant yelling conceals a palpable frustration. As the film progresses, it curiously focuses more on Hennessy than Quan.

Veteran director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) enlivens the proceedings with capable lensing of the film’s requisite fights and chase sequences, and incorporates some landmarks to authentically capture the setting.

However, the screenplay by David Marconi (Enemy of the State) — based on a 1992 novel by British author Stephen Leather — updates the narrative framework yet fails to capitalize on the timeliness of its political backdrop.

The film strains credibility as it stumbles toward a conclusion that lacks subtlety and surprise, while struggling to reconcile its disparate elements into an emotionally resonant package. From page to screen, The Foreigner doesn’t translate.


Rated R, 114 minutes.