It’s the return of “Death Wish” with Denzel Washington playing a thinking man’s Charles Bronson. Stylish, very well acted and pretty good in an eye-gouging, throat slashing, face-mauling, corkscrew-through-the-Adam’s-apple sort of way. Not to everyone’s taste. Most suitable for boys between the ages of 10 and 10½. Unfortuantely, it’s R-rated so they can’t see it. Which means it’s ours.
Washington is the mysterious Bob McCall — modeled after those brooding cowboy heroes who mosey into town one day, beat up the bully in the saloon, unseat the cattle barons and ride off, unknown but not unappreciated.
McCall lives a monastic life in a single-bedroom apartment in Boston. He gets up each morning, shaves his head, has a blueberry smoothie, cleans his Air Jordans with a toothbrush and takes the T to his job in a Home Depot-type store where he works well with the customers and provides kindly advice to his co-workers regarding fitness and ways to avoid refined sugar and trans fats.
Then he takes the T home, has a Spartan supper in solitude, washes his plate, silverware and glass and resumes reading “The Old Man and the Sea.” He can’t sleep at night, so he takes his book and his own teabag to an all-night diner, rearranges the place setting so everything’s just so, reads his book and offers encouragement and hope to a young Russian prostitute who has coffee and pie most mornings around 2.
Soon it becomes apparent that Bob is not just fastidious, he has OCD. Also, he is a bad ass. And when the heavily tattooed Russian Mafia guy roughs up the young prostitute, Bob reduces the population of Russian Mafiosi with icy precision, courage, imagination and a corkscrew.
He goes on to right wrongs throughout Beantown, disassembling crooked cops and taking a ball-peen hammer to a vile thug.
Yes, Bob becomes a vigilante. He sizes up the opposition seconds before chopping them all to pieces much the way action hero Jason Statham plans his work and works his plan in those 1-against-10 assaults in which he is the stick and the bad guys are individual piñatas.
This could go on for quite a while (hey, he’s obsessive) except the extra-extra bad Russian shows up — Teddy (Marton Csokas, very scary). How bad? He’s got more tattoos than anyone. Bob and Teddy are evenly matched, at least in terms of nerve.
The OCD thing doesn’t make sense and is swiftly dropped. Incomprehensible, too, is an interval in which McCall’s formidable skills and melancholy are explained. The director, Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day,” “Olympus Has Fallen”), brings off a visually effective film — atmospheric and full of sudden, audacious action. This is not a movie for reflection. This is a movie for popcorn.