Denzel Washington plays Robert McCall. Robert follows the same routine every day. He gets up, goes to work at the hardware store, then at night he goes to a local diner where he reads The Old Man and the Sea. We can see that he’s got OCD because of the way he arranges his napkin and silverware just so, and he brings his own teabag to the diner. While there, he chats with Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), a young call girl working for Russian gangsters. He doesn’t approve of the way they treat her, and eventually he’ll have to get involved.
We’ve seen this kind of movie before. McCall is a guy everyone thinks of as a mild mannered nice guy, but he has a secret past, and he has a very special set of skills. You can tell right away that when he’s pushed and has to start fighting, he will have no trouble kicking some ass.
What makes this work is Washington’s performance. In the hands of a lesser actor, this could have been a boring character. But Washington is so good that he’s even interesting when he’s doing nothing but watching others. It takes a while for the action to start – it was a good 20 or 30 minutes in before he has his first confrontation with the Russian gangsters. And the confrontation is a bloody one. He uses whatever is in the room, including corkscrews, to dispatch half a dozen of his attackers.
One problem I did have was that he never seemed to not be in control. We never see him get hurt or make a wrong decision. At some point, it loses the excitement when every time he encounters some more bad guys, he dispatches them without hardly batting an eye.
On the other hand, that’s part of the fun too. We watch in slow motion as he looks around the room and sizes up the threats. Then he goes to work. The climax of the movie takes place in the hardware store, and I may never look at a drill the same way again.
The movie is too long, and I started to get bored in the second half. For a while, the movie has nowhere to go and we spend a lot of time watching the main villain, Teddy (Martin Csokas) looking for McCall. They could have easily cut a good 20 minutes out of this movie.
But that aside, I enjoyed it. It’s always fun to watch Denzel Washington in ass kicking mode, and the story was compelling enough to recommend the movie.