The Foreigner feels like the result of one writer having a solid idea for a Taken-style movie starring Jackie Chan, and another writer having a solid idea for a suspenseful and surprisingly nuanced look into modern Northern Irish politics and the legacy of the IRA. And then, somehow, the two scripts got shuffled together and no one noticed until the film was well into production 😂
Which isn't to say The Foreigner is a bad film. It's just that it slightly feels like there are two pretty great films here competing for your attention, and neither truly gets the room to breathe that it deserves. Still, the resultant mashup is both enjoyable and keeps you moving along, with excellent pacing and some intriguing plot moments that turn a standard action movie into something with a decent chunk of depth. Jackie Chan is great as the world-weary, past-his-best ex-Special Forces just looking to get some justice for his daughter's untimely death. Pierce Brosnan is even better as the ex-terrorist turned politician now juggling both his personas in a desperate attempt to hold on to power.
Plus, there's a simple exhilarance in watching an old Chinese immigrant get the better of all the Irish gangsters, Met police officers, and terrorists. His plan is methodical yet consistently surprising, making it both interesting to watch and surprisingly "realistic" (for an action movie, at least). There's more than a hint of something like the original Bourne trilogy, just with far less impossible-to-follow shaky cam.
Do I slightly wish that I could have had the two movies independently? Yes, I do. In particular, the look at a modern IRA in the wake of Brexit, the ramifications both politically and internally, is an area that I would love to have explored more. I also felt a couple of the threads around the Irish antagonists were left a little short. Brosnan's duplicitous wife is a great example of a character who could have been so much more than just an opportunist. The double-agent mistress, too, was a great character, up until the moment she gave up everything under torture, despite having no hope of living. These small moments that undermine certain characters (particularly female ones) are scattered throughout, and I feel would be avoided by spending more time with people rather than action scenes. Still, they are fun action scenes: beautifully choreographed, with a rawness that you don't often see these days.
The final product, then, is a lot of fun. Not brilliant, but much better than it had any right to be.