Jackie Chan built a career on playing cheerful martial-arts warriors. In his new movie, “The Foreigner,” which he also helped produce, he loses his joie de vivre soon after the opening credits.
Here he plays a single father named Quon, who, as the movie opens, sometimes appears dropping off his daughter at a boutique in London so she can purchase a dress for a dance. A terrorist bombing blows the block to smithereens and turns Quon into an aspiring avenger. After facing roadblocks with the neighborhood authorities, he trains his sights on Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), an Irish political operative who, Quon is convinced, knows something about the “authentic I.R.A.” that is claiming responsibility for the bombing.
What’s that, you ask? “Authentic I.R.A.?” Why, yes, apparently. On this film’s convoluted scenario, jam-packed with morally bankrupt people doing ugly things to one another, a Northern Irish faction is making an aggressive comeback. The movie, directed by Martin Campbell, is based on a novel called “The Chinaman,” by Stephen Leather, whose I.R.A.-heavy plot may have made sense when it was written in 1992. This boneheaded update practically defines the term scab picking.
But back again to the action: Cryptically, and implacably, demanding names of the perpetrators, Quon pursues Hennessy to his country home and makes just like a senior-citizen Rambo in the woods. Mr. Chan is within his early 60s, and he doesn’t deliver the action pizazz here that he used to. Nor, frankly, does he summon enough gravitas to be persuasive in the role of any grief-maddened father. For what it’s worth, Mr. Brosnan, as Quon’s nemesis, sells the angry-all-the-time requirement of his character