The Foreigner stars Jackie Chan as a man who has a very particular set of skills, acquired over a very long career — skills that make him a nightmare for the people who kill his daughter in a terror bombing.
Yep, he’s a little bit Liam (coincidentally the name of his adversary here), but you can’t call the movie a full-on rip-off of the Neeson-starring Taken because it’s adapted from a novel published 25 years ago.
That accounts for the throwback feel of the plot — a rogue IRA cell has blown up a London bank, killing more than a dozen people, including a woman whose father, Quan (Chan), is — oops — a former special forces commando skilled in the ways of remorseless butt-kicking.
Stephen Leather’s 1992 novel was called The Chinaman — retitled here so that it’s less offensive, but it’s also inaccurate, as it turns out Quan is a naturalized British citizen. He politely but persistently goes to the authorities, asking for an assessment of the investigation’s progress, eventually demanding the names of the bombers.
Quan makes the same demands of the ex-IRA man in Parliament Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), who’s conducting his own internal probe to identify members of the renegade group. In doing so, he inadvertently sends Quan on the trail of the perps.
And so we get to the movie’s money scenes — Chan demonstrating, repeatedly and gloriously, that IRA men have not had martial-arts training. It’s Chan doing what he does best, and it’s an effective variation on the Taken formula — Quan using the self-serving logic of the terrorist against him. No laws, no rules, no limits on the escalation of violence.
What The Foreigner lacks is the lean narrative line of the Taken films — there is a convoluted plot about internal IRA treachery that may leave you baffled. And while the movie initially adheres to the Chan brand — emphasizing athleticism over violence — it turns grisly and vicious in the closing scenes.
That’s when it starts to feel more like Taken 4, rather than the Jackie Chan movie it should be.
- Directed by Martin Campbell. With Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Ray Fearon, Stephen Hogan, and Dermot Crowley. Distributed by STX Films.
- Parents guide: R (violence).
- Running time: 1 hour, 46 mins
- Playing at: Area theaters.