I can’t help but see this sequel and the last movie as Denzel Washington’s answer to Liam Neeson’s Taken, and less as an update of a cult 80’s TV show of the same name. Here Denzel returns as ex-marine-turned-vigilante Robert McCall, who is again on the look out for the next hard luck case and an excuse to crack some skulls. However after a double murder in Belgium attracts the interest of a CIA friend, it’s soon a race to find out what went on whilst the bad guys attempt to cover things up.
The movie’s story however largely prefers to focus on said cover up more than giving some compelling answers. This hampers enjoyment which is a shame as Denzel busting bad guy ass never gets old even if his penchant for violence seems over the top at times. Antione Fuqua‘s direction is still slick as is often the case with this guy (he made Training Day). Yet with a cliched villain I guessed early on and a glaring moment of bad guy stupidity towards the end, this sequel was overall only so so.
If you enjoyed the first movie, this has moments of entertainment and has a rather interesting subplot regarding a neighbourhood kid … but that’s not enough to make this a must-see.
I really don’t know what’s taken me so long to get around to this. It’s Denzel Washington in a remake of the much loved cult TV show that starred the late Edward Woodward. Now, I can’t say I’m all that familiar with the show, but Denzel killing bad guys never gets old. So here he plays a mundane blue collar guy who works in a hardware store and by night frequents a diner to read books and swap small talk with the local troubled young prostitute (Chloe Grace Meretz). Now before you make the leap that I did that this was more Taxi Driver than anything else, firstly you wouldn’t be far wrong but said blue collar guy also possesses mad skills as demonstrated when he goes up against a gang of Russian mobsters after said prostitute winds up in hospital. So less the social commentary and more a strong case of picking on the wrong guy, ala John Wick, Leon etc.
What this lacks in originality it more than makes up for with several solid performances and well choreographed action and some brutal violence that makes every stabbing, every punch and every broken bone really hit home. Denzel is on great form, charismatic and deadly and plays the duel ‘everyman’ and ‘trained killer’ personas effortlessly. This is aided well my a scenery chewing, stand out turn from Marton Csokas as the man called in to solve the problems Denzel creates. Moretz is also good if a little underused for a large portion of the movie, but every scene she’s in is decent, with clear echoes of Jodie Foster.
Sad then that in the final act, a very stupid decision by the supposedly intelligent bad guy lets the show down and plausibility is stretched as the movie tries to tie everything up in a neat bow, regardless if it rings true or not. Which is a shame because Antoine (Training Day) Fuqua’s movie is otherwise stylish, thrilling and confident … and a helluva lot of fun. If this was the 80’s and it was Arnie or Stallone, I could forgive such developments, but cemented in a fairly believable world, I didn’t think the ending worked in the context of what had come before. That said, this is still worth your time, especially if you’re a fan of Denzel Washington.
Remakes will always be a tough sell, and we’ve had to endure some shite in the past. I noticed that the critical reception for this latest effort has been rather mixed. I never saw the original movie and probably never ill. So I’m probably in the best position to take this one in with a fairly open mind. Denzel Washington is a bounty hunter / marshal who comes to the aid of a recently widowed woman who’s town has been taken over by a ruthless businessman out to plunder the mines for any gold he can find. Washington agrees to help the woman seek revenge but first must rally a group of cowboys and what not to his aid. Along for the ride is a card hustler (Chris Pratt), a sharp shooter (Ethan Hawk) and an assassin (Byung-hun Lee).
Antoine (Training Day) Fuqua’s movie is immediately attractive and captures the setting and especially the feel of a western brilliantly. He has a keen eye for iconic shots and delivers in the action, where I’d go as far as to say this has some of the best action of the year for me, complete with excellently choreographed gunfights and traditional (not CGI) stunt work. The plot for what it is, is simple and only serves to bring together a likeable gang of gunslingers that I quickly grew to care about. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before but when it’s got stand-outs from Washington and Pratt as well and plenty of energy and a great score from James Horner – what’s there to grumble about?
If I was to nit-pick it would be to say the movie does revel in it’s clichés such as how it’s filmed, typical western movie imagery and well, several moments that occur are typical of the genre to the point of near-parody. Also characterisation, which with such an ensemble cast isn’t easy could have been a little better. I wanted more backstory to Denzel’s character which would have added weight to a later revelation, and well, we learn pretty much nothing about who Chris Pratt is other than handy with a gun and a deck of cards.
Yet this feels like a celebration not just of the movie it’s based on but westerns as a whole. So in that respect I can forgive it’s familiarity or lack of anything particularly new and just enjoy it for what it is – damn good entertainment.
The trailer to this movie pretty much sums up the whole experience. Mark Wahlberg & Denzel Washington, plenty of arguing, one-liners, attitude and lots of shooting .. no bad thing I hear you say and for the most part it isn’t. This is a fun romp, with double-crosses a plenty and a nippy script that doesn’t worry to much about a cohesive narrative or characters with much depth.
Apparently based on a comic book series by Steven Grant, we also get Bill Paxton turning up as a sneering bank owner who’s feathers are ruffled after Wahlberg & Washington steal $42 million from it, unaware that its all mob money. As the trailer revealed, the two leads are actually under cover agents, even if at first they don’t realise the other is … which is an interesting spin and Wahlberg & Washington give it their all. Denzel of course could do this sort of role in his sleep but is still very watchable, and the increasingly enjoyable Mark Wahlberg manages to make an arrogant womaniser just as likable. Token babe Paula Patton is on hand to be the eye candy, basically to give the guys something to look at amongst the ample-dose of machismo.
So what we have here is a stylish and energetic caper, making for a light, fun ride with a likable cast … but sadly little else to shout about.
When one thinks of director Robert Zemeckis, movies like Back To The Future and Forest Gump spring to mind – not meaningful drama’s about alcoholism … but this is exactly what the celebrated director has delivered. Breaking away from a foray into animation with the (for me at least) underwhelming A Christmas Carol, this stars Denzel Washington as an airline pilot who saves the passengers of a jet after an incident, and is heralded a hero by the public and press. However he hides the secret that he’s actually an alcoholic, who was drinking on the day of the flight – was he responsible for the incident, or should he allow his lawyers to cover things up?
Washington has always been a dependable actor, but for me he’s fallen a little out of favour with a few too many similar performances, where he always seemed to be the arrogant shouty-type who thinks he knows it all. This however was his chance to showcase more depth with a damaged, emotional role, which thankfully has him back on form. Co-starring Don Cheadle and a stand-out John Goodman, I found this gripping and powerful. Washington’s character isn’t very likable, but as with alcoholics, it’s never as simple as right and wrong – and I found myself sympathising with him regardless of his often reckless actions. Also, an on-off relationship with a heroin addict (Kelly Reilly) had echoes of Nicholas Cage drama Leaving Las Vegas, even this never quite sinks to that movie’s harrowing depths.
Zemeckis has crafted an often thought-provoking and surprising drama, very different to the feel-good movies he’s been known for, but shows he remains one of the best around. And although subtle and not as lively as some of his other performances, Washington nailed this perfectly. Highly recommended.
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