London, and it's just another ordinary day where Chinese immigrant, resident in Britain for a couple of decades, Quan Ngoc Minh (Jackie Chan), picks up his teenage daughter (Katie Leung) from school and chats with her about the upcoming prom as he takes her to a shop to buy her new dress for the occasion. However, when she disappears inside and he tries to park the car, he is in a collision with another vehicle, and is just getting out to remonstrate with this man when an explosion hits the street, destroying the shop and leaving many dead and injured. Soon after, a newspaper receives the call from the bombers: terrorists calling themselves the "Authentic I.R.A." Who?
Who indeed, in a film adapted from a novel published near the end of the Troubles where Ireland and Britain were about to move towards a peace process that would finally see the end of the conflict that had blighted Northern Ireland for so long. However, here was a piece that was keen to reignite those Troubles for the sake of a thriller plot reminiscent of how Hollywood tackled the matter in the nineteen-seventies with its Rod Steiger-starring effort Hennessey, which was not exactly well-known for its adherence to fact, and so it was here that director Martin Campbell had evidently been instructed to deliver a fantasy of the situation to give Chan a few action bits.
In some ways this was more a political drama than it was an action thriller, to the extent that Chan seemed to be in a different movie in relation to everyone else. His co-star was Pierce Brosnan, who played the Deputy Irish First Minister, it says here, but he was more or less the only representative of Irish politics to be seen, and for some reason the hair and makeup department chose to make the actor resemble Gerry Adams, the Sinn Féin leader (beard, glasses). Quite what they were trying to say about Mr Adams was a point best glossed over, but Brosnan's Hennessey (hey!) was an ex-I.R.A. terrorist who had gone legit and was as baffled as the Brits as to who had set off the device in London.
Meanwhile, in a different plot Chan was offering the British authorities a wad of cash to give him the names of the killers, but they were in the dark, so improvising in his grief and need for vengeance off Quan ventures to Belfast to see if he can find out more himself. This behaviour resulted in him attracting the notice of Hennessey's offices, probably thanks to him blowing up the gents' toilet there with a couple of lemonade bottles filled with fuel, and from then on he put into effect his training from the Vietnam War to see to it that Hennessey's supposedly ex-terrorist henchmen were having a really bad time of it, not least because Quan was a major embarrassment to their status. But was he correct? Did Hennessey have all the answers? No, he didn't, but then again he sort of did, as if the screenplay couldn't make up its mind.
There was a definite amount of political confusion in The Foreigner which may have played well enough in regions where such things were not as mired in the issues of the countries involved (no surprises it went straight to Netflix in the UK and Ireland but was a cinema release elsewhere) but appeared like either bad taste or poor judgement when it was closer to home. If you were willing to overlook that pretty big stumbling block, Campbell was enough of a professional to keep the pot boiling with some pace, and if Jackie looked to be using a stunt double or two now, well, he was getting on, and did offer up a reminder that he could act in dramatic scenes when he wasn't the Clown Prince of Kung Fu. Taking a novel from that period and transplanting it to a fantasy where terrorist activity from Ireland was back may have been a step too far, especially as terrorism from a different part of the world was a lot more pressing, and no matter how joyless and self-serious they made this, it was kind of ridiculous. Music by Clint Mansell.