Much like with last week’s Liam Neeson-starring A Walk Among the Tombstones, this thriller owes a lot to the lead man’s presence – with enigmatic shine added to a paint-by-numbers plot.
That’s exactly what Denzel Washington does – and then some – with this big screen reboot of the classic ‘eighties TV series.
Washington re-teams with director Antoine Fuqua – he won an Oscar for Training Day the last time the duo collaborated – and while this performance won’t be to award-winning standards, Denzel still does what Denzel does best.
Can you believe it has been 10 years since Man on Fire was released, and while his ruthless killing authority has plenty in common with that film, his character is completely different this time round – actually trying to avoid confrontation when necessary.
He plays reluctant hero Robert McCall – a man with a mysterious past, keeping himself to himself as a quiet DIY store worker – who gets antagonised into returning to his highly-trained killing roots after his prostitute friend Teri (Kick-Ass’ Chloe Grace Moretz) gets beaten up by her so-called employers.
Unfortunately when McCall exacts vengeance on this posse of hoodlums, they’re actually a sub-division of the Russian mob – leaving psychotic ‘fixer’ Teddy (The Lord of the Rings’ Marton Csokas) and a bunch of crooked cops on his trail.
But via his own brand of justice, McCall plays a game of cat-and-mouse with the gangsters – using all of the skills from his past to destroy the monetary circulation of this brutal Moscow-based empire.
And despite a fairly generic storyline – and generally unrewarding seen-it-all-before vigilante-style showdown ending – Washington’s sheer stand-out presence makes this truly watchable from start to finish.
Some clever set-pieces – coupled with Fuqua’s artistically adept direction – takes this above the average genre efforts, as you root for McCall’s lethal do-gooder hero.
Throw in a noteworthy turn from Csokas’ bad guy to compliment Washington’s engaging performance, and you have a thriller that is already potentially being lined up as a new franchise.
This isn’t one of Denzel’s middling efforts that scores a deserved equaliser, but instead provides a delicious winning strike – and arguably his best all-round performance since his Oscar triumph.