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Tuesday, Oct 17, 2017
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'The Foreigner' is Jackie Chan's (terrible) attempt at being taken seriously

Jackie Chan, master of martial arts comedy, wishes to be taken seriously as an actor. Seriously.

The Foreigner is no place to start and a smart place to finish.

For once, Chan isn't the most incomprehensible thing in one of his movies. The Foreigner expects viewers to come in understanding the Irish independence movement and its terrorist history. Or else, ear-squint through brogues arguing about it. Before long it isn't worth the trouble.

Chan spends the first 30 minute of Martin Campbell's movie doing things to which he's unaccustomed. He mistakes silence for drama playing Ngoc Minh Quan, a London restaurant owner whose teenage daughter is killed in a terrorist bombing. Chan's grieving face just looks tired, his lines doled out in phonetic edits.

A group called the Authentic IRA takes credit. I'm guessing the IRA to most Americans is a retirement plan but the Irish Republican Army's goal decades ago is key to The Foreigner. That's when the book it's based upon was published, when the movie probably should've been made.

Pierce Brosnan co-stars as Liam Hennessy, a former IRA activist now serving as a government mediator between England and Northern Ireland's independence fighters. He's shady but nothing like the Jenga conspiracy surrounding him later, shoving Quan aside to introduce confusing deceit.

Quan thinks Hennessy knows who set off the bomb and wants names. When he doesn't get them, Quan immediately transforms into a slightly less creaky, more stunt man-dependent Jackie Chan, setting off McGyver bombs and acrobatic brawls. Each body double is another reason why this movie should've been made years ago. Even then, not with this ending. Seriously.

Contact Steve Persall at spersall@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.


The Foreigner

Director: Martin Campbell

Cast: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Charlie Murphy, Dermot Crowley, Orla Brady, Lia Williams, Niall McNamee, Rufus Jones

Screenplay: David Marconi, based on the novel The Chinaman by Stephen Leather

Rating: R; strong violence, profanity, mild sexual content

Running time: 114 min.

Grade: C-

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