The Foreigner (2017)

  • Time: 114 min
  • Genre: Action | Thriller
  • Director: Martin Campbell
  • Cast: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Charlie Murphy, Rufus Jones, Katie Leung


The story of humble London businessman Quan (Chan), whose long-buried past erupts in a revenge-fueled vendetta when the only person left for him to love – his teenage daughter – is taken from him in a senseless act of politically-motivated terrorism. In his relentless search for the identity of the terrorists, Quan is forced into a cat- and-mouse conflict with a British government official (Brosnan), whose own past may hold clues to the identities of the elusive killers.


  • Global action superstar Jackie Chan displays surprisingly solid dramatic chops in the political revenge thriller The Foreigner. Based on Stephen Leather’s 1992 novel The Chinaman, the film is a riff on Taken, which has now become the template for aging action heroes and also serves as a reunion for Pierce Brosnan and director Martin Campbell, who worked together on Brosnan’s first Bond film, GoldenEye.

    The film begins in London with Chan’s Ngoc Minh Quan witnessing the death of his daughter in a department store bombing perpetrated by a group called the Authentic IRA. The Chinese restaurant owner is devastated and is determined to discover the men responsible. When Scotland Yard commander Richard Bromley (Ray Fearon) counsels him to have patience, Quan turns his attention onto Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), the Irish deputy minister whom Quan believes may have an inside track due to his former status as Provisional IRA leader. Quan’s instincts are correct but Hennessy, dealing with a far bigger agenda, refuses to help the grieving pensioner.

    What Hennessy doesn’t realise is that Quan is no meek shuffling retiree. Quan is a U.S.-trained mercenary and he resurrects his special set of skills, starting with setting off a homemade bomb in Hennessy’s office, to intimidate the duplicitous politician into giving him the names of the bombers. What ensues is almost farcical as Hennessy deploys more and more of his goons upon Quon, who continually sends them back bruised, broken or worse.

    One of the chief pleasures of The Foreigner is watching the increasing fear and desperation take over Hennessy. One can practically feel the clamminess seep through as he tries to juggle his various machinations whilst vainly extricating the thorn in his side that is Quon. Though known for being suave and sophisticated, Brosnan registers strongest when allowed to be shifty and menacing (to wit: The Matador and The Ghost Writer) and he does a fine job balancing Hennessy’s frustrations at being continually thwarted with allowing the character’s darker nature to surface, especially during a scene where he learns of a particularly personal betrayal.

    The other source of entertainment, naturally, is Chan who, whilst not as sprightly as he was in his heyday, still cuts a formidable action figure. Campbell stages several striking action sequences that allow Chan to display his characteristic dexterity without sacrificing the physical and emotional gravitas that he has invested in Quon.

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    • Jackie Chan’s Quan is the “foreigner” not just because he’s “the chinaman” (as it happens: the politically incorrect title of the source novel) but because he is the only main character of principle and honour. All the other figures — whether in politics or in terrorism —eagerly betray each other. Ethics and loyalty are foreign to them all.
      In the initial contrast, Quan dedicates himself to avenging the bomb killing of his last daughter (his other two having been killed by Thai pirates). Meanwhile, the ex-IRA Hennessy, now the Deputy Minister for Ireland, betrays his wife and marriage with an affair. His mistress betrays him on behalf of the new Irish terrorists. As tit for tat, Hennessy’s wife betrays him both maritally and politically. When she seduces Hennessy’s nephew, blood runs thinner than betrayal. Unfaithful in love, Hennessy is unsurprisingly exposed as a political turncoat as well. On all sides.
      The film presents modern civilization as a snake pit. For Quan, the one person of integrity, “Politicians and terrorists, they are just two ends of the same snake.” Hennessy’s difference: “One end bites and the other doesn’t.” As Hennessy ultimately learns, the politicians can be as destructive and dishonourable as the terrorists.
      Here’s the interesting point. At a time when the West is hung up on radical Islamic terrorism, abandoning their principles in fear of coloured attackers, this film establishes an Asian as its hero and moral centre, while resurrecting the all-white terrorism the Irish inflicted upon the British. This film refutes with history and drama the hypocrisy of white supremacy.
      This excellent thriller smartly addresses our times.

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