The Foreigner has the same elements as any number of generic procedurals: innocent victims are killed in a terrorist bomb blast, law enforcement officers track down leads and analyze forensics, and a crusading politician has his career put on the line. What none of these people (indeed, maybe not even the audience watching them) have reckoned with is that one of the victims’ fathers in all this mess is an ex-Viet Cong sapper played by Jackie Chan—and he is pissed. This is a rare (mostly) dramatic role for Chan, who spends most of the front half of The Foreigner weeping and shuffling to and from the offices of a former IRA man-turned-shady government official (Pierce Brosnan), repeatedly demanding the names of the men responsible for his child’s death. When that proves to be a dead end, the grieving father becomes a Home Depot MacGyver, booby-trapping his way through his enemy’s security team, intent on sniffing out the truth.
This thoroughly weird mashup of procedural thriller, revenge action movie, and political drama should completely crumble under the weight of its relentless genre hopping, but director Martin Campbell sure-handedly juggles everything
Director Martin Campbell is one of the great unsung action craftsman of the last 30 years, and he shoots the brief fight sequences here cleanly and with a bare minimum of cuts to cover the fact that Chan, now in his sixties, just isn’t as light on his feet as he used to be. And the whole thing glides on a typically propulsive electronic score from Cliff Martinez. This thoroughly weird mashup of procedural thriller, revenge action movie, and political drama should completely crumble under the weight of its relentless genre hopping, but director Martin Campbell sure-handedly juggles everything, and even manages to lend it all some serious gravity at the end as state power proves just as ugly as personal violence or terrorism. More movies should get this strange.