I never saw the 80s TV series this is ostensibly based on, but given that it was a violent, vigilante revenge thriller it’s not surprising to see it adapted for a feature, given that so many films recently have been following the same template, mostly starring Liam Neeson. This already has a sheen of class over it though, due to the formidable screen presence of Denzel Washington, and with Antoine Fuqua behind the camera (the man who previously directed Washington to an Oscar with Training Day). And while the shadow of unexpected global box office smash Taken hangs heavily, both men do sterling work in making their film distinct enough to stand up on its own among a sea of peers – most welcomely jettisoning the uncomfortably xenophobic politics of similar films.

Washington plays a seemingly normal, everyday Joe who works in a hardware store, and who embarks on a series of vigilante acts which lead us to discover he is actually a retired former government agent. Rather than a domineering father who wants to get his daughter back, he’s more of a brutally violent neighbourhood watch member, and the rest of the plot pans out exactly as you might expect. While there are little surprises, the whole thing is delivered with some virtuoso style – Fuqua employs a series of effective palettes and does some interesting stuff with close-ups which keeps things visually interesting, and Washington is as good as he always is. So while there is absolutely no new ground being broken here at all, what’s lacking in ambition is made up for in emphatic delivery.

Yet another violent vigilante revenge thriller5
Antoine Fuqua is a technically excellent director9
Denzel Washington always does something interesting8
Much less of the dubious politics of other similar films7
Compensating for its lack of originality with a purity and simplicity of purpose8
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
Bechdel Test Failures
  • None of the female character talk to each other
7Overall Score

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