After the above-average action and suspense of the first film, and the opening moments of this sequel, it is hard not to get one’s hopes up. Who doesn’t want to see Denzel snap necks and kill a bunch of people in often ingenious ways? But, for a reason I can’t fathom, almost all of this film is exposition.
Bad people, the only way they can be described as we learn nothing about any of them, unlike Nicolai/Teddy from the original, find out that McCall isn’t really dead. So much of this exposition is essentially why this is happening and some of McCall’s history. Many scenes could have been cut.
There is much talk about why people are being killed, why McCall has to return to his old ways. We meet people that McCall cares about, showing the good things that he does for people despite the brutal acts he is capable of. It is interesting and we certainly get to know the man as a character much better than the first film. It isn’t horrible by any stretch… despite the abundance of talking and overlong scenes.
The leaps from Brussels to the US may help explain why Denzel is being hunted down, and why the film goes down the path it does, but they are jarring and off-putting, not to mention confusing when a pointless sub-plot is introduced. So we are left with an alleged action film that only has two real action sequences, one a brilliantly choreographed set piece during the final act, the other a brief confrontation at the start of the movie. This of course is edited in the standard Hollywood way:
Ritalin-riddled cuts that obscure the action and ruin the impact of each blow.
Has nobody taken anything away from films like John Wick or Atomic Blonde?
Moving on, Denzel is great, which isn’t surprising, and we really get to know McCall, which is what seems like this film’s main goal. The few characters we meet that he cares about aren’t thin, undeveloped people, especially a young man McCall has befriended, Ashton (Miles Whittaker), as he lives in the same apartment block that McCall is hiding in. The two become close and share some powerful scenes together with excellent chemistry.
The same can’t be said for the head villain however. We don’t get to know him at all, other than the fact he used to work with McCall and he is now betraying him. That’s it. This sliiightly ruins the impact of the scenes when he and his cronies decide to hunt McCall down. His acting is also very bland and flat, intentional perhaps, but it doesn’t come off great.
The score must be mentioned, as despite being composed by the same man, it couldn’t be more generic when compared to the original’s score that positively impacted the film. A change in cinematographer seems to have ruined part of the film too, as the camerawork here is uninteresting. Of course these are all comparisons to the original, but is it so bad to expect similar audio/visual quality for a sequel?
This could easily be seen as a film to build the character of McCall, but so little happens it is a little hard to swallow after the action of the original, which was no The Raid, but it was certainly better than this. The two combined could have been a single fantastic flick. But this sequel is a drama more than an action film, and is essentially a carbon copy of the original that isn’t entirely legible. It must be said though that there are some tense scenes in which violence seems unavoidable but somehow doesn’t happen. Sometimes it does, but not in the neck-snapping way of the original. The creativity has disappeared, as has a high amount of tension.
Three out of a sixer. It could have been so much better.
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