A “Good Guy” meting out justice in a bad way.
There’s something really satisfying about seeing our ‘hero’ Robert McCall giving bad ‘uns a bloody nose (and far worse) as immediate punishment for a crime committed. My parent’s pre-war generation would wax lyrical about the days when police officers or teachers could give a kid a “good box around the ears” as a lesson for a minor infringement. (“Ah, the good old days…. That’ll learn ‘im”!). But equally there’s also the queasy feeling here that this is a vigilante being judge, jury and executioner. Thank GOODNESS then that it’s Denzel Washington and he’s OBVIOUSLY a good guy that will never get it wrong!
Washington returns here as the righter of wrongs, now working as a Lyft driver in Boston (clearly Uber either lost the bidding war or they were not considered to be as cool a brand anymore). Through his job he crosses paths with various troubled souls and is often able to help: sometimes with just an encouraging word; sometimes with more physical activity! By way of validating his good guy credentials, he also takes under his wing Miles (Ashton Sanders) – a local black kid at risk of being dragged into the Boston gang scene.
But this is all window-dressing for the main plot, involving bad guys (for reasons that escaped me) tidying up a lot of CIA loose ends in Brussels in a very brutal way. In charge of the investigation is Robert’s ex-boss Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) and to help out further Robert has to ‘reappear’ to his ex-partner Dave York (Pedro Pascal). As in the first film, events lead to an explosive western-style showdown.
Directed again by Antoine Fuqua, the film oozes style from the impressive opening shots of a Turkish train, where the cinematography by Bourne-regular Oliver Wood is exceptional. The action scenes are well-executed, and includes a superb science experiment that will puzzle any viewer who thinks “hang on a minute – flour doesn’t burn”!
Reading again my review of the original film, I went off on a rant about extreme screen violence in sub-18 certificate films. There is certainly – as the British film censors (the BBFC) describe it – “strong violence” in this film, with some pretty brutal murder scenes. If anything though I thought the violence was a little less gratuitous this time around, which I welcome.
Denzel is the greatest asset of this film though. He acts up a hurricane (literally), and without his calm and powerful presence at the heart of the film, this would just be A.N.Other generic thriller. It’s also great that this time around the excellent Melissa Leo gets more screen time, as does her husband played by Bill “Independence Day” Pullman. (Is it just me that gets Mr Pullman confused with the late Mr Paxton? I spent all of this film thinking “Oh how sad” though all his scenes before I realised I was grieving for the wrong guy!). In terms of mistaken identity, this film has another in that a key villain Resnik looks far too much like Mark Wahlberg, but is actually Canadian actor Jonathan Scarfe.
Where the film stumbled for me was in having too many parallel “good deed” sub-plots. One in particular – you’ll know the one – feels completely superfluous, beggars belief and could have been excised completely for the DVD deleted scenes.
Do you need to have seen the first film? No, not really. There is exposition about McCall’s back-story, but if this was covered in the first film then I had completely forgotten it. It certainly didn’t detract from this as a stand-alone film.
A cut-above the norm, Washington’s solid performance makes this an entertaining night out at the flicks.
Fad Rating: FFFf.