Having switched from security to providing a taxi service since we last saw him in 2014, he’s used his access to a wide range of humanity to help them in their hours of need. For the local bookshop owner, he’s “rescued” her daughter from the clutches of the girls’ uncaring Eastern European father. For an abused call girl, he’s ensured the rich boys responsible won’t be doing it again. In short, he’s cleaning up Boston by breaking bones and taking names of the city’s scum one dirtbag at a time.
But when his old Agency friend and confidante Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) is killed in Brussels, Robert breaks his ghostly cover and reaches out to his old partner Dave (Pedro Pascal).
It’s a decision that draws him back into a world he thought he’d left behind.
This solid, but unspectacular sequel (Washington’s first in a more than 50-film career) is a movie that plays by a “very particular set” of rules.
Richard Wenk’s (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back) screenplay might move at a more leisurely pace and be aiming for a higher intellectual level than similar recent vigilante and revenge tales involving the likes of Liam Neeson and Bruce Willis, but it’s still blighted by a lack of characters, the now requisite double-crosser, a potential protege, heavy use of metaphors (in this case a gathering storm) and predictable plotting.
As always, the cool-as-a-cucumber Washington is a compelling central figure, but even his mix of senior citizen sass, crotchety old man advice and his own brand of justice starts to wear a little thin by the end of the two-hour running time.
As with the first movie, fans of the original 1980s Edward Woodward-starring British TV series will be appalled that, rather than being the last resort, violence is invariably the first – even if Washington’s ability to switch into fight mode at the drop of a flat cap is ruthlessly impressive.
Director and regular Washington-collaborator Antoine Fuqua (The Magnificent Seven, Training Day) tries to keep the action interesting with clever use of reflections, point-of-view shots and “stalker” cams, but there’s a less-than-judicial reliance on slo-mo for key moments and a bizarre decision to only occasionally throw in subtitles for foreign foes.
The movie definitely earns brownie points for not trying to completely destroy Belgian tourism and besmirch those of a particular ethnicity (as the initial half-hour threatens), but they’re somewhat cancelled out by a less-than-subtle storyline and sadly underwritten support players.