The Foreigner is a fairly generic title. It depends on which country you are in and who is coming into the country. In this particular case it is both the UK and Northern Ireland and the person coming in (although he has lived there for 30 years) is Chinese. In fact, The Novel on Which This Film Is Based, by Stephen Leather, is called The Chinaman.
And, The Chinaman is Jackie Chan. The screenplay indicates that he is age 61, as he was when the film was made. But that does not mean that he has lost all his agility. While he might not have the martial arts movements of years gone by, he can still put up a fairly good fight – and his past training, as we find out, is in surveillance tactics, tracking tactics, trapping tactics.
When we look at the cast list, we see it is Jackie Chan versus Pierce Brosnan.
We find out the situation at the opening of the film, Jackie Chan’s Mr Quan picking up his daughter from a London school and a sudden explosion, an IRA bomb. This means that we are back in the stories of the 20th century, updated for the 21st-century. Mr Quan’s daughter is killed. What he quietly grieves, he becomes intent on righting the wrongs, on unmasking the killers, on wreaking justice.
This means that he has to confront the UK government, the UK police – who, while momentarily sympathetic, see him as a nuisance and something of a crank. So, off he goes to Belfast, to confront a deputy minister there, Pierce Brosnan, who also tends to dismiss him, declaring that he does not know who detonated the bombs.
What is a grieving father, an outsider, foreigner, to do?
This is where the plot becomes explosive, literally. Mr Quan is an expert at using fairly ordinary materials to create bombs and sets off a few, to the deputy minister’s detriment and fear. This is especially the case when he retreats to his country house and there is a huge explosion. The minister has quite a number of aides, more along the thuggish lines and diplomats, but have no chance against Mr Quan and his fighting abilities.
There is also diplomacy. The minister sent his nephew secretly to make deals with the London police, has contact with government minister.
It all builds up to a confrontation when there is a second bomb explosion of a London Bridge, a bus being destroyed with many deaths. And there are a number of twists involving old IRA stalwarts, betrayals, twisting of information.
Clearly, there is going to be a confrontation between Mr Quan and the IRA cell. And, this does happen, Mr Quan being very shrewd as well as being very active – and, really, able to solve all the problems single-handed.
This is a kind of story that Jack Higgins used to write many decades ago, the IRA, the British, individuals who have courage and a knack for solving problems with brawn and brains. director Martin Campbell has directed two James Bond films, one with Pierce Brosnan, as well as some significant television series, including Edge of Darkness.
A contemporary entertainment in the old vein.
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Review by the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting