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dir Antoine Fuqua
scr Richard Wenk
prd Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Denzel Washington, Alex Siskin, Steve Tisch, Mace Neufeld, Tony Eldridge, Michael Sloan
with Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, Johnny Skourtis, Haley Bennett, David Meunier, Alex Veadov, Vladimir Kulich, E Roger Mitchell
release US/UK 26.Sep.14
14/US Columbia 2h11
Someone to watch over: Moretz and Washington
TORONTO FILM FEST
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Fans of the 1980s TV series will struggle to see how it was adapted into this action thriller. Everyone else will see it for what it is: a predictable bit of formulaic entertainment. Despite the slick production values and another focussed performance from Washington, the project is remarkably unambitious.
Robert (Washington) is a mild-mannered worker at a Boston DIY shop who sits all night in the local diner reading old novels. There he meets Teri (Moretz), a teen hooker in trouble with her violent Russian pimp (Meunier). So Robert quietly takes matters into his own hands, offering to pay off Teri's debts in exchange for her freedom. The pimp and his goons laugh at him, at which point he switches into super killer mode and wipes them out. The problem is that this puts him in the crosshairs of Russian kingpin Teddy (Csokas).
As Robert works his way up the chain, he's essentially wiping out the entire Russian mafia while cleansing Boston of dirty cops. Before he escalates things into an all out mob war he consults with his old CIA boss (Leo) and her husband (Pullman), but that's about as far as his soul searching goes. Mainly he just gets on with killing anyone who doesn't agree to his terms.
Washington uses anguished looks to show that Robert hates this, but it's difficult to believe him when he offs the next thug in a torturously brutal way. Of course, Washington is solid enough to just about sell the character, even with the nagging inconsistencies (exactly how does he fund this war?). The surrounding characters barely get a look in. Moretz is terrific in a harshly truncated role, while Csokas is never much more than a Die Hard villain.
Made to a high standard, director Fuqua as always takes everything so seriously that it's often laughable. Several sequences are painfully corny, including the contrived final confrontation, which plays out like a serial killer movie on fast forward as Robert turns into MacGyver, using household tools to cause the most pain and death possible. That said, the film is brisk and relentless, holding the attention without demanding any intelligence in return (even the simplest plot points are carefully explained). But honestly, this cast deserves much better. So do we.
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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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