Jackie Chan is still kicking, punching, and jumping out windows. In this action thriller, he’s a sad dad with special forces training, trying to track down some anonymous bombers. The two main characters, Quan and Hennessey, are enemies, but I would say this is a buddy movie because they are trying to solve the same mystery. The movie is serious and satisfying but has a few funny moments in it.
See below for a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.
My Beat Sheet for The Foreigner
Quan’s daughter’s high school before the final bell rings.
Set-up / Theme Stated
Quan drops his daughter off so she can buy a dress for a dance.
The shop gets bombed by Irish terrorists and she’s killed.
Quan pesters the local police to find the bombers. They promise justice will be done, but he’s skeptical.
Break into Two
His other two daughters and wife are already dead: he has no more family. Quan burns his photos of them and gives his restaurant to his colleague.
B Story / Fun and Games
Quan drives to Ireland and insists on seeing Hennessey, a government official who has ties to violent Irish separatists. He demands the names of the bombers. Hennessey says he does not know who the bombers were. Quan sets off a bomb in the toilet. Later, he follows Hennessey and photographs him with his mistress. Hennessey runs away with his family to their farm. Quan sets fire to the barn. Just before Hennessey sends his wife back to the city, Quan blows up the car she would have gone off in. He wants names. He won’t stop until he gets them, but Hennessey really doesn’t know who’s to blame. Under pressure from the British liaison as well as Quan, he embarks on a mole hunt to figure out who bombed a civilian target without his authorization. He cooks up a plan involving code words to identify the traitor.
Quan drugs Hennessey’s dog and gives him 24 hours to identify the bombers.
Bad Guys Close In
The wife hates Hennessey because he didn’t take revenge on her brother’s killers; she learns Hennessey’s plan from his nephew, with whom she is having an affair. Hennessey’s mistress is one of the bombers planting a bomb on the bus. Another Irish guy says Hennessey has gone soft. One of Hennessey’s henchmen catches the wife cheating with the nephew. Quan is being chased in around in the woods.
All Is Lost
The plan fails because someone has tipped off the bombers not to use a code word.
Dark Night of the Soul
Hennessey kills the guy who said he was soft because he was careless and the British have tracked him to the farm. The nephew confirms he’s having an affair with the wife.
Break into Three
Quan defeats the nephew in a fight and gets the names of the bombers from him.
Quan attacks the bomber team in their hideout. Quan kills everyone but the girl (Hennessey’s mistress) and escapes. The police arrive and question her, thus preventing a bomb planted on a commercial flight full of important people all heading to the same conference. Once the plot is foiled, they execute her.
Quan forces Hennessey to reveal his relationship with his terrorist mistress online. The nephew shoots Hennessey’s wife according to his instructions.
Government snipers spare Quan’s life as he hugs his colleague in the restaurant. His revenge is complete, so he’s not dangerous anymore.