The Foreigner has a PR problem. See, all its trailers would have us believe that it's basically Taken with Jackie Chan, and for the first 10 minutes, we really believe this will come to be. Chan plays Quan, a Chinese restauranteur living in London whose daughter is killed during a bombing carried out by an upstart terrorist cell called the Authentic IRA. He is understandably bummed, and we'll actually give him points for his excellent acting chops. But after a Chan-heavy opening act, we're left with Pierce Brosnan for the bulk of the rest. Brosnan is Liam Hennessy, a former IRA soldier who has risen the political ranks to become some sort of diplomat. He's apparently pissed about the bombing, though it seems more about pardoning his IRA brethren for him than it does loss of life. Chan goes to see him about the names of those who killed his kid, but since Brosnan won't help, Chan sets out to kill everyone because—ruh-roh, he's not just a chef—he's a trained spy! Twist!
For the remainder of the film, Chan does his acrobatics and ass-kickery in surprisingly few scenes while Brosnan navigates the intricacies of international diplomacy, tense relations in a post-IRA world and the constantly shifting loyalties of everyone he thought he could trust. It might have been interesting, but The Foreigner instead forces us to remember names (or code names) of faceless people whom we maybe saw onscreen for 10 seconds in low light at the very beginning of the film. Brosnan does his best as the aging militant who has grown weary of violence, but for every scene of him staring into a fire and brogue-ing his way through a speech about the last 20 years, we couldn't help but wonder why there wasn't more bereaved-dad-Chan punching his way through a whole mess of Irish thugs.
The ending buckles under its own labyrinth of stupidity and features some mind-bogglingly disturbing imagery of policemen painted as heroes while straight-up murdering people. It's painfully confusing to figure out if Brosnan was in on it the whole time or if he was being played by the aforementioned faceless characters but, either way, more Chan could have solved most of The Foreigner's shortcomings if only they'd have let him.
-Not enough Jackie Chan!
Directed by Martin Campbell
With Chan and Brosnan
Violet Crown, R, 114 min.