Director: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour
Genre: Action, Crime
Age Rating: 15
Running Time: 132 minutes
Once again, Denzel Washington brings cool, calm and kick-ass to our screens. Based on the classic television series starring Edward Woodward set in the 1980s, it follows the story of Robert McCall (Washington), a mysterious and retired intelligence agent who has tried to leave his professional capabilities behind him and live the quiet life, working in a department store.
After he befriends Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a troubled young girl who regularly sits in the same diner as him, while he reads his books, aligns his cutlery and checks his watch more often than the average man, he encounters a dark part of the country which he served so long to protect, a Russian prostitution organisation who mistreat and misuse girls who are trying to make a decent wage to keep them afloat. He first meets the men responsible for Teri’s beatings one night when he is keeping her out of trouble one night. It is from here onwards, that the fire in his eyes burns and we get to see the ex-CIA mastermind show us his worth.
In his battles with the Russians, without spoiling too much, let’s just say that the fight scenes are awesome! They are intuitive to the point that McCall analyses each part of the anatomy to explore their weaknesses before striking killer blows (reminded me a lot of Robert Downey-Jr in the SHERLOCK HOLMES films). They are brutal in the sense that Denzel Washington takes his no-holds barred approach from the brilliant MAN ON FIRE (2004), to new heights in this film. Finally, just like any other film featuring this brilliant actor, the levels of tenacity increase as the film goes on; killings go from being stealth and minimalistic to being ruthless and explosive.
The brilliant thing about an ageing Denzel Washington playing this type of role, is that the action is not over-exaggerated, much like the work you’d see from returning action heroes like Sylvester Stallone, Liam Neeson and Bruce Willis for instance, it’s more realistic if anything; just think of an ex-CIA agent based in a department store, surrounded by nailguns and sledgehammers, and you’ve got a smart and volatile final battle scene, where Mr McCall takes no prisoners.
In the majority of action-packed USA vs. Russia feature films like these, the Russian rival or villain is often portrayed as an idiotic and easy to beat obstacle. Initially, this was not the case, where we were introduced to an intelligent and less stereotypical ultra-violent Russian gangster in Teddy (Marton Csokas). However, unfortunately, as the film developed, Teddy’s ability to keep up with Mr McCall and give him a credible final battle scene deteriorated, resulting in an ending which could have been stronger, personally.
Overall, Antoine Fuqua has put together another great film which evidently draws parallels with two of his other recognised films, TRAINING DAY (2001) and BROOKLYN’S FINEST (2009). The story of Mr McCall is strong and believable, as too is the brutality and simplicity of his endless list of kills. The soundtrack to this film is pretty great, featuring a particularly impressive final piece of music from Moby (‘New Dawn Fades’). Once again we experience a masterclass in acting from Denzel Washington bringing together a lot of his previous characters’ motives and attitude to show us this retired intelligence agent who knows how to right a wrong. I also smell a sequel…
“When you pray for rain you gotta deal with the mud too!”
Recommendation: If you’re a Denzel fan, you have to add this to your Blu-Ray/DVD collection. Turn the volume up and enjoy this explosive film! If you’re not a disc buyer, it should be out on Sky Movies fairly soon!