Unlike other movies that try to wrap a story around the action, THE FOREIGNER (2017) uses the action to propel the plot. Quan Ngoc Minh (Jackie Chan) is a London businessman struggling with the tragic death of his daughter at the hands of a rogue IRA sect bent on terrorizing London. All he wants is justice in the form of the names of the people responsible, but he’s both dismissed and ignored due to age and likely nationality. He’s Asian, older, frail looking, and runs The Happy Peacock restaurant. Police and investigators seem very sorry for his loss, but no one is acting is willing to give him the information he wants, or at least isn’t acting with the urgency he expects. Unable to get satisfaction from the UK government, he takes his petition to Belfast, Northern Ireland. They’ve never really gotten over the Troubles, and he sticks out like a sore thumb, but Quan won’t let that stop him. Again rebuked by people who can or won’t help, he systematically works he way to the people he needs getting the information he craves to put his family to rest.
This is a deeply engrossing film with every character’s motivations laid bare. Many of us are too young to remember The Troubles or even the more recent issues with the IRA, so the violence can seem at times over the top or extreme. Anyone expecting to see a smiling backward Chan unsure of the ways of modern London and grinning to please everyone around him will be in for a shock. There is a malicious inventiveness that makes you set aside any preconceived notions you may have had about his character. This a heavy role and the intensity he brings to both his grief and his retribution may be surprising to some. Pierce Brosnan settles in nicely as the British Ambassador Liam Hennessy, operating under his own agenda to bring to heel the group destroying his reputation and mucking up his own carefully laid plans. We don’t often see Brosnan play the hard case. Quan throwing pipe bomb after pipe bomb into the works only serves to make Hennesy realize how little control he actually has.
Based on the novel, “The Chinaman” by Stephen Leather (Pocket Books, 1992), you don’t have to worry about getting bored while you wait for exciting acrobatics. There is layer after layer of frustration experienced by everyone top to bottom, and the only one getting anything done is Quan, simply by walking in and making it happen. With violence, sure, but it’s not like anyone here is innocent.
You didn’t hear it from me, but there could be Oscar considerations for Jackie Chan’s performance. This is a movie worth catching twice.
THE FOREIGNER (2017) is rated R for violence (duh), language, sucking face, and more than a few spectacular explosions.