A quiet man, Bob McCall (Denzel Washington) goes about his job at the Home Depot-like warehouse store, but at night he ends up walking the streets of Boston to his favorite all-night diner. There, he interacts with Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), a young girl pimped out by a vicious Russian pimp (David Munier, Justified). When Teri is viciously beaten, McCall goes into thorough, violent action, and the rest of the film is the fallout from his angel-of-death-like retribution. This is Washington at his finest: kindhearted toward the innocent and distributing quick, brutal justice to those who would do them harm.
Based on Michael Sloan’s character from the 1980s television show, Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Shooter) shows us both sides of the conflict, with Washington facing off against a Russian kingpin’s number one troubleshooter, Teddy (Martin Csokas). Teddy doles out death and beatings savagely and sinisterly, and the escalation paints a clear picture of different kinds of violence, even if they end up with the same results. Teddy’s sociopathic behavior runs counter to McCall’s desire not to do violence, but it’s clear that when the time comes, he’ll be who he’s supposed to be.
That’s the central theme running through this thriller: people are pushed into roles that life forces on them, whether it’s the guy working the floor who longs to be a security guard or the young girl who never wanted to be a prostitute. It’s trickier with McCall: we find out tragedy caused him to give up the way of the gun, but when the innocents are in harms way? He’s the only one who can make things right in a world full of monsters and corruption.
McCall is like a Clint Eastwood character: above the law, more effective than the law, driven by a sense of an eye for an eye. It’s entertaining and terrifying at times, and shows off the kind of pairing we’d expect from Washington and Fuqua. Vigilantism isn’t encouraged, but in a movie, we tend to long to see the wrong punished. Thanks to McCall and “Home Depot,” that’s covered.