Year Released: 2014
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz, Marton Csokas
(R, 131 min.)
Genre: Mystery and Suspense
“Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.” Thomas Mann
With the world slowly spiraling out of control, no wonder we flock to the cinema for a man of action. However, at first glimpse, Denzel Washington's Robert McCall is anything but, a quiet loner who tidies the shelves at the local Home Depot clone, smiling at the friendly taunts of his young co-workers.
His world seems as routine and ordered as the wide aisles and stacked merchandise that people his days. In fact, his Robert McCall seems to take comfort in the daily rituals – rising before his 7:30 alarm to shave his head, measuring berries into his morning smoothie, patiently holding the overhead strap on his morning bus ride across town.
He folds his tea bag in a paper napkin each night like a young girl saving a prom corsage and arranges the unnecessary silver ware at the local diner he frequents where his only order is hot water for his tea. The main course is his book, this time Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea.
The guy’s more like a life coach than combat pro. He coaxes his young co-worker Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis) to lose weight to land a security job, and at the late-night diner he listens to Teri, a young Russian prostitute (Chloe Grace Moretz) and her dreams of becoming a singer.
“You can be anyone you want to be, “ he insists.
However, the Russian pimp who handles Teri doesn’t quite abide with that maxim, as indicated by a black eye and finally a brutal beating that lands her in ICU.
McCall’s is a quiet kind of courage, entering alone and unarmed into the Russian den where Teri’s Russian thugs sit among the luxuries of their ill-gotten gains. They smirk at his offer to buy back Teri’s life with the $9800 in cash he has brought along. That is when we find out the his rearranging of the glass artwork in the room is not just a Hercule Poirot obsession, but a careful plan for his impromptu battle that lasts just over 16 seconds.
We know that because McCall sets his stopwatch just before he makes his move. What he does not know, however, is that he has not just taken down 5 pimps. He has taken on "the east coast hub of the Russian mafia." Like Hemingway’s old man, he has “met his greatest adversary just when he thought that part of his life was over.”
And that adversary is no cardboard villain, but a cunning and vicious sadist, equally at home sipping brandy in a tailored suit or stripped to the waist to expose his body armor of tattoos. Cunning and urbane when he wants to be, the Russian fixer sent from Moscow, Teddy (Marton Csokas), is Moriarty to McCall’s Holmes. Equal forces of will, light and dark, that must destroy or be destroyed.
Too bad Teddy picks the home improvement store for his coup de grace. That is when we suspect that the first half of the film has served to expose such bottomless evil for the sole purpose of allowing us to feel no guilt whatsoever at its bloody obliteration. One critic noted that director Antoine Fuqua got his start filming Black and Decker ads. He has put that expertise to good use in this final showdown, which might have been called, “Death by Home Depot.”
And why such persnickety critics as PBS’s David Edelstein are so wrong when they label Denzel Washington “Gandhi with a Glock.” Did this effete scribbler close his eyes during the action and fail to notice that McCall is consistently unarmed and makes do with what is at hand like McGiver on steroids?
His too clever by half critique demonstrates why you need to read Different Drummer for your film recommendations instead of listening to PBS:
It would be great if Fuqua (the director) had turned him loose on Wall Street instead of the usual scummy gangsters — let him crusade for equal pay for equal work or higher carbon taxes to offset damage to public health. –David Edelstein
A blueberry smoothie is part of the morning ritual that creates order in McCall’s life. When you see him in action, you may decide to start your day off in this way, too.
I can’t guarantee you can then flash Denzel’s 1000 mega watt smile or put away the bad boys with such dispatch, but it will get your morning off the o great, healthy start.
By the way, it’s great to find a thriller without its requisite anti-hero, someone who starts his day with a smoothie spiked with blueberries instead of Vodka.
Original recipe makes 2 servings
1 cup blueberries (frozen or fresh)
1 (8 ounce) container plain yogurt
3/4 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Blend the blueberries, yogurt, milk, sugar, vanilla, and nutmeg in a blender until frothy, scraping down the sides of the blender with a spatula occasionally. Serve immediately.