The plot is flimsier than Manchester United’s defence and Denzel Washington’s titular avenger has less depth than a LIDL mince pie, yet Antoine Fuqua’s adaptation of the Edward Woodward television series is strangely engrossing and plenty of fun. It’s also violent, incredibly violent. It puts me in mind of some dog-eared piece of exploitation, acquired from the roving video man who would swing by the village once a week in the late nineties. It feels like an action film from another decade, the sort of really violent pulp you tend not to see too often.
Washington is Robert McCall, an insomniac with a heart of gold and a dubious past. Turns out he’s also a one-man wrecking-machine, as his acquaintances: the overweight colleague (Johnny Skourtis) and the hooker mixed-up-with-the-mob (Chloe Grace Moretz) find out when he descends to dispense justice for the wrongs that have been done to them.
Washington’s character has no family, no ties and (seemingly) no weakness, so the sense of jeopardy is almost non-existent. He clatters his way through a parade of faceless, often nameless thugs with the impregnable demeanour of some Kilgore-esque lucid-dreamer. Only Marton Csokas’s handy-looking mobster gives any impression of being a real match for our hero, but it’s still only the slightest impression. You’re never truly in any doubt that McCall won’t come out on top and it’s a shame that Fuqua or screenwriter Richard Wenk haven’t seen the need to give him an Achilles heel beyond his unfailing desire to hand out blind, ugly justice.
If this all sounds like two hours of nonsense, that’s because it is. It’s entertaining nonsense though and, while I am loath to espouse rampant mediocrity or lazy writing, I couldn’t help but enjoy it. Much of this is, I think, due to Denzel Washington’s innate likeability as he despatches his foes with ease. It feels like nobody involved is trying particularly hard here, but, as you enjoy the sound of Academy Award winner Denzel Washington taking a power drill to a man’s head, you’ll be comforted to know that you don’t have to try hard either.
Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller Distributor:Sony Pictures UK Rating: 15 Running Time: 131 Minutes Director:Antoine Fuqua Cast: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz