Arts movie review

Bombs, blackmail, and tranquilizers: how to extract information from someone

Jackie Chan returns in yet another classic action thriller


The Foreigner

Directed by Martin Campbell

Based on Stephen Leather’s novel The Chinaman

Screenplay written by David Marconi

Starring Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Michael McElhatton, Liu Tao, Charlie Murphy, Orla Brady, and Katie Lueng

Rated R, now playing


The Foreigner starts out simply enough — a dad picking up his daughter from school to take her prom dress shopping. Within seconds, however, the calm beginning is blasted to pieces by an explosion that kills the man’s only living relative, his daughter. From the aftermath of the bomb, a classic action thriller is born.

The storyline of The Foreigner follows Quan (Jackie Chan), whose only purpose left in life is to avenge the murder of his beloved daughter by the bombers, a group called the “Authentic IRA.” In doing so, he becomes convinced that Liam Hennessy, the former IRA leader turned Irish deputy minister, knows the bombers. Thus, Quan leaves his whole life behind to elicit the names and locations of the bombers from Hennessy.

Once Quan’s daughter is killed, the rest of the storyline becomes, in essence, predictable. From the moment the bomb goes off, it is obvious that despite the British police’s extraordinary resources and effort, Quan will be the one to locate and kill the bombers. The only question that remains is how. It is here, in answering this question, that the movie does justice to the label “action thriller.” Quan quickly realizes that Hennessy sees him only as a grieving father and thus will not give him the names of the bombers. So, making use of his special ops background, Quan makes Hennessy fear him — he plants small bombs in Hennessy’s office and country home, takes blackmail photos, and even manages to get past the numerous security agents and ex-British special ops agent Hennessy has seeking out Quan. It all works, both on Hennessy and the audience. Much like Hennessy, you find yourself waiting for Quan’s next move, and subsequently, are awed by his sheer brilliance. You inwardly chuckle at Hennessy’s stunned look when he discovers Quan inside his country house; you smile at Hennessy’s resignation when he sees his expert tracker nephew returning without Quan; and you outright laugh when British special forces find all the bombers dead in their apartment as Quan slips out of the building with a puppy in his arms.

All in all, The Foreigner is your typical action thriller recipe. The quintessential former special ops agent, backstabbing comrades and kin, extra-marital affairs, and underhanded politics are all mixed together to make this recipe work. To a degree, it does. While by no means is this a heart-pounding, chair-gripping nail-biter, you find yourself rooting for the grieving Quan as he gets closer and closer to avenging his daughter’s death. If you’re a Jackie Chan fan or want to see how a 60-year-old restaurateur’s incredible ingenuity allows him to dodge trained operatives, elicit sensitive information from a powerful politician, and take revenge before the British police can apprehend the bombers, I say give The Foreigner a chance.