I settled down to watch this on Saturday night. Although I can remember the original show starring Edward Woodward it was never regular viewing, and I hadn’t seen the previous outing for Denzel Washington either. But I knew enough to expect lots of high-octane action, a dash of revenge, and perhaps not too much emphasis on plot.
The first half of the film was surprisingly enjoyable. I liked Washington’s portrayal of the main character, Robert McCall, clearly damaged by past traumas but still able to care about the people around him. His interaction with garden-mad neighbour Fatima, and young punk Miles, was touching. And the action bowled along, with various apparently random brutal murders that I assumed would all be connected by the end.
Well, they were. Sort of. But half way through, things stopped being convincing. McCall found out who the main bad guy was far too soon, and the plot pretty much vanished in favour of a lot of very standard “stalk and shoot”. Plot strands weren’t so much connected as chucked together in a ‘see, that explains everything’ way. The moral ambiguity of a character killing people for money being the good guy while other characters who killed people for money were bad was never really resolved. And the action scenes were surprisingly poorly handled.
The final climactic shoot-out took place in a coastal town that was being evacuated in the face of an in-coming hurricane. Bits of scenery tore past from time to time and there were some good wind and wave sound effects – but oh dear! The characters’ clothes and hair were pretty much undisturbed, even when the baddie climbed some kind of look-out tower to get a better view (through a curtain of debris) and proceeded to shoot with remarkable accuracy (in a Force 11 gale). Not so much hurricane, more light breeze, and that was the overall impact of the film as well.
Too much of the early action wasn’t explained – who exactly were the Frenchman (?) and his wife who were butchered near the beginning, and why were they killed? What did Miles add to the plot, other than as a useful device to get McCall to where he needed to go? And where on earth were the police whenever someone else was bumped off? It could all have been so much better with a less muddled approach and some decent direction. As it was, Washington’s performance stood head and shoulders above anything else (as you might expect from such a classy actor). Overall, I thought it was a good way to pass time on a dull Saturday evening when there wasn’t much else going on, but I was relieved not to have paid to go and see it at the cinema.