Seriously? The best movie of its kind I’ve seen in a very, very long time.
Beyond the stellar performance of Denzel Washington (can this man do anything badly?), this was a really remarkable film. It’s an action movie, make no mistake about that, but it’s an action movie that assumes its audience has a maturity level above that of your average 14-year-old boy. The story takes its time developing, there are a number of subtle and nuanced details that, if one isn’t paying attention, can be easily overlooked (or misunderstood), and the character development is masterful.
Our hero is not a stereotype; we don’t get the exhaustive (and exhausting) back story that movies which don’t trust the intelligence of their audiences tend to beat to death. We are given some time to get to know this man, and if we’re paying attention (and I was), we pick up on several subtle cues that give us some insight into what kind of man he really is. His interactions with the people in his life, from his coworkers to the hooker who eats pie at the all-night diner he frequents, are genuinely caring; he’s patient, attentive, and generous with his time, though despite that, we can tell there’s more he’s holding back than he’s giving.
The event that pushes him “back” into a life he’d walked away from surprises both him and us, and his response to it reveals that he cares a lot more than he he is willing to initially credit himself for. He’s not a man to do anything halfway; he’s observant, thoughtful, and deadly thorough (and demanding of himself; the one amusing quirk of timing his actions – and then being disappointed when he takes longer than he expects – speaks to his expectation of perfection in the execution of his missions).
Despite the presence of tattooed Russian mafia and dirty cops, the film doesn’t drop into the action flick tropes. There’s no love interest in need of saving, there’s no sidekick who’s the brains of the operation, and the contact to whom our hero returns for information is a woman without the usual “I have something to prove” attitude (and her husband’s presence and demeanor may inspire another essay on the film all by himself).
If you like a smart action film, I cannot recommend this one highly enough. It’ll be added to my personal library as soon as it’s out on DVD, and I can’t wait to see it again.