Here’s what The Foreigner looks like: Taken, but with Jackie Chan. But if you walk into the theater expecting either a Taken knockoff or a typical Jackie Chan vehicle, you’re going to be disappointed. Which is a shame, because The Foreigner is really interesting—just not for the sort of reasons that fit into a trailer.
Let’s get the Taken thing out of the way first: Yes, Chan plays Quan, a frumpy dad with secret Special Forces training. And yes, his only daughter (Katie Leung) is immediately blown up by terrorists. But Taken movies operate with a straightforward set of rules (Liam Neeson has a particular set of skills, bad guys have his whatever), while The Foreigner threads Quan’s quest for vengeance through a complex web of contemporary British counter-terrorism and North Ireland politics.
It’s also a chance for Chan to demonstrate his dramatic talents to a Western audience—which may take a bit of getting used to. Quan is a man hollowed out by grief, and Chan translates his talent for demanding physical comedy into a keenly observed body language of hunched shoulders and shuffling steps. Paired with Pierce Brosnan’s effortlessly menacing charm, there’s a lot of, well, acting, in a genre that’s usually reserved for stoicism and grave intonation.
The closest analogues to The Foreigner I can think of are Harrison Ford’s Jack Ryan movies, which married a handful of action set-pieces with lots of wonky spycraft and a bit of soap opera and seduction (fittingly, The Foreigner is based off Stehen Leather’s book, published in that same, early 1990s era). It’s not a bad combo, but it does seem like something you need to be primed for, especially in 2017. But now that you know what The Foreigner really is, I say go for it.