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‘The Foreigner’ falls flat

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Revenge movie lacking in intrigue, action

The “old guy action movie” subgenre has been around for some time, but it has never seen a heyday like it has had in the past decade or so. Thanks to Liam Neeson and the success of “Taken,” we’ve seen plenty of actors in their 60s and 70s try their hand at displaying their own particular sets of skills.

So it was hardly a surprise to see something like “The Foreigner” come along, an old guy action movie vehicle for everyone’s favorite slapstick Kung Fu practitioner Jackie Chan. At least, that’s how it was billed. But while there are a few sequences that offer some Chan-driven action highlights, “The Foreigner” spends more time on warmed-over political intrigue than you might have expected – much to its ultimate detriment.

Chan plays Quan Ngoc Minh, a restaurant owner living a quiet, uncomplicated life. His only family is his teenaged daughter – he lost his wife and other daughters to tragic circumstances years ago. But when she also loses her life as collateral damage from a terrorist bombing perpetrated by a group calling itself the Authentic IRA, Quan is shattered. He makes it his mission to track down the people responsible.

As part of that effort, he reaches out to various authorities in search of names. However, when he finds himself in the offices of government official (and former IRA bomb-thrower) Liam Hennessey (Pierce Brosnan, “The Only Living Boy in New York”), Quan begins to suspect that these bombers are being protected somehow. He’s convinced that Hennessey knows the truth – and he’s bound and determined to get it out of him.

Hennessey, for his part, has plans of his own – plans that are spiraling out of control despite his best efforts. His longtime associate Hugh (Dermot Crowley, “A Prominent Patient”), his special forces-trained nephew Sean (Rory Fleck Byrne, TV’s “Harlots”), his mistress Maggie (Charlie Murphy, “To Walk Invisible: The Bronte Sisters”) and his wife Mary (Orla Brady, TV’s “Into the Badlands”) – all have their own agendas with regards to what’s happening and their own ideas about where their loyalties should lie.

Quan is single-minded in his quest to avenge his daughter’s death and is willing to do whatever it takes to force Hennessey to help him. He stalks Hennessey from London to the English countryside and back again, taking out bodyguards and blowing stuff up along the way. And as Hennessey’s world unravels, he must find a way to deal with Quan’s relentless assault and save himself.

Spoiler alert: it doesn’t go super well.

I have to admit that “The Foreigner” disappointed me, though I’ll also concede that my disappointment isn’t necessarily fair. It isn’t that this is a terrible movie – it isn’t great, but you’d have no problem finding worse. No, it’s that it isn’t the movie you’ve been led to believe that it is.

I went in expecting a full-on “Taken” riff starring Jackie Chan. I was ready for two hours of Jackie Chan doing Jackie Chan stuff (with obvious concessions made for his age – dude’s 63, after all) only with a darker tone. Instead, what I got was a slow-paced political intrigue thriller with occasional outbursts of action. Again – not BAD, but not at all what I was anticipating.

What action sequences there are do a fairly decent job, but they’re few and far between; honestly, you see at least part of every one of them over the course of the misleading trailer. Still, it’s nice to see even glimpses of Jackie Chan stunting it up. You can definitely see him feeling his age – he doesn’t have the stamina for really extended sequences – but he also has moments where he shows these young whippersnappers what fight choreography is all about. They’re brief, but they’re there.

As for the rest of it? Meh. Pierce Brosnan doesn’t do a great job of convincing anyone he gives a crap about this movie; his primary acting choice appears to be the decision to be drinking whisky in as many scenes as possible. Seriously – a drinking game where you take a drink whenever he takes a drink would almost certainly end badly. He’s a beard with an Irish accent and an inexplicable number of nameless bodyguards. Everybody else wanders around with one, maybe two character traits – it seems like no one is capable of feeling, doing or being more than one thing at a time. And forget about meaning or motivation – these people are glorified plot devices.

In truth, “The Foreigner” probably isn’t as bad as I’ve made it out to be. But it’s definitely not the movie I thought it was … and the one in my head was better.

[2 out of 5]

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