Quoting the blurb used to promote The Foreigner, “…the story is about Quan (Jackie Chan), a humble London businessman whose long-buried past erupts in a revenge-fueled vendetta when the only person left for him to love — his teenage daughter — dies in a senseless act of politically motivated terrorism. His relentless search to find the terrorists leads to a cat-and-mouse conflict with Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), a British government official whose own past may hold the clues to the identities of the elusive killers.”
For me, this description doesn’t begin to explain the complex characters and confusing backstory of this movie. So, here is the story as I understood it:
Quan, a restaurant owner in London, drives his teenage daughter into the shopping district to pick up a dress for a party. Just as she walks into the shop, an explosion rips the street and Quan sees his daughter die. In a PTSD flashback, we learn that Quan’s wife and other daughters were killed by pirates as they sailed to England from Hong Kong. This daughter is the only family Quan had, and now she is gone. Heartbroken and angry, Quan is determined to find out who the people are that perpetrated this senseless bombing. When the News reports that the London Police believe the attack was done by members of the former IRA (Irish Republican Army – terrorist organization), first Quan goes to the Police for names. When they can’t help, Quan goes to Liam Hennessy, a British government official and former active leader in the IRA.
Now the subplot: Years older than when active, Liam still leads the “former” IRA members and while berating them for breaking their commitment of peace with England, England is still holding five IRA members prisoners and Liam wants them to be released. Although not revealed immediately, the initial goal of the “bombing” was to bring attention to this plight without anyone getting hurt.
When Quan appeals to Liam for the names of the people responsible for the bombing, and MURDER of his daughter, Liam can’t help him. That’s when, finally, Quan – Jackie Chan – goes into action.
There are other subplots, Liam is in an unhappy marriage, he’s having an affair, his wife is also having an affair (with Liam’s nephew, a former terrorist/tracker who spent time in NY), there is in-fighting among the “former” IRA members, and so on …
It took me a while to understand Pierce Brosnan’s very heavy Irish brogue, and identify who was who in this very large cast of rough-tough fighters, but for the first time, I appreciated Jackie Chan as a dramatic actor capable of showing deep sadness, as well as his perfectly timed acrobatics and specialized Kung Fu fighting abilities.
The Foreigner was engaging and enthralling, with plot twists that led to a surprising and very satisfying conclusion. It’s the kind of movie that you want to see again to grasp the subtleties that may have been missed when seeing it for the first time.
Director – Martin Campbell
Writer: David Marconi, based on the novel “The Chinaman” by Stephen Leather.
Jackie Chan – Quan Ngoc Ninh, former Navy SEAL turned London restaurateur.
Pierce Brosnan – Liam Hennessy, a former IRA member turned British government official.
Ray Fearon – Bromley
Rory Fleck-Byrne – Sean Morrison
Stephen Hogan – Christy Murphy
Katie Leung – Fan (works in Quan’s restaurant)
Simon Kunz – Matthew Rice
Dermot Crowley – McGrath-
Rufus Jones – Ian Wood (Woody)
Orla Brady – Mary Hennesy, Liam’s wife
Mark Tandy – Simpson
John Cronin – Denis Fisher
Caola Byrne – McCormick
Niall McNamee – Patrick O’Reilly
Charlie Murphy – Maggie /(Sara McKay)
Michael McElhatton – Jim Kavanagh, Liam’s right-hand man
Liu Tao – Keyi Lan (daughter)
Pippa Bennett-Warner – Marissa Levitt
Roberta Taylor – Mrs. Taylor