Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is up early getting ready and going to his job at Home Mart. He is respected and well-liked among his co-workers. He sits to have lunch with his friend Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis). Ralphie takes a bite of his sandwich and McCall hears a crunch. There's chips in his sandwich. McCall reminds Ralphie he's supposed to be dropping weight for his test to become a security guard.
Most nights, McCall goes to a diner where he takes a book. He is currently reading "The Old Man and the Sea". A young girl in the place (Chloe Grace Moretz) asks McCall if the man in the book has caught the fish. He says not yet. The girl finishes her pie and goes to hail a cab.
McCall's coworkers ask him what he used to do before working with them. He jokes that he was a Pip with Gladys Knight, doing a little dance for them.
McCall goes back to the diner that night and runs into the same girl. She notices he's reading a new book. A limo pulls up across from the diner. She then gets a call from her pimp, Slavi (David Meunier). He tells her she has a client, which is the man in the limo. The girl doesn't want to, since this man is a pig. The car door opens to reveal an obese man waiting for the girl. Reluctantly, she goes outside and joins him.
The next night, McCall finds the girl in the diner. She has a bruise on her face. He gives her a doughnut that he got from work. She sits with him at his table and introduces herself as Teri, although her real name is Alina. She hands McCall a CD that she recorded of herself singing. McCall leaves with her and they take a walk before a car pulls up to them. It is Slavi and his driver Tevi (Alex Veadov). Slavi gets out and slaps Alina. McCall takes a step forward until he sees that Tevi has a gun. Slavi walks over to McCall and hands him a card for his business to ask for other girls.
McCall visits the diner again another night and learns from the manager that Alina is in the ICU after being beaten badly. McCall goes there and sees another prostitute, Mandy (Haley Bennett), by Alina's side. Her face is even more bruised and messed up. Mandy walks by McCall, crying. She gets a cup of coffee but overflows the cup. McCall comforts her and asks about Alina. They ride the elevator, and Mandy tells him that Slavi hit Alina, and she hit him back, and was made an example of. Mandy says that Slavi also threw battery acid in a girl's face to make her an example as well. He has threatened other girls before.
McCall looks at the card that Slavi gave him. He goes to an area above a restaurant where Slavi and his men are meeting. McCall enters with an envelope containing $9800 for Alina's freedom. At first, the goons laugh at McCall, though Slavi says that the money would be good to keep Alina for one month. McCall takes the money back and starts to walk out. He almost leaves but then decides to stay and lock the door. After carefully observing the men and whatever weapons they may be holding, he sets the timer on his watch. One of the men aims his gun at McCall, but he grabs the man's arm and causes him to shoot Slavi in the throat. He then jabs a shot glass into that man's eye. He stabs the third man, and then gets a corkscrew and repeatedly stabs Tevi until he sticks it under his chin and finishes him off. McCall goes to Slavi's side and watches him slowly die.
Following the murders, a Russian mobster named Teddy (Marton Csokas) arrives to Boston to seek out the killer. He teams up with a group of corrupt cops to gain leads.
At work, McCall notices Ralphie isn't in. He's told that Ralphie quit. McCall visits a restaurant that Ralphie's mother works at. Ralphie is helping there after a fire broke out, supposedly by accident.
Teddy is taken by one of the crooked cops, Frank Masters (David Harbour), to the workplace of a gangster named John Looney (Shawn Fitzgibbon), to continue his search for the killer. John insults Teddy, and all Russians in general. In response, Teddy hits John with an ashtray while Frank kills John's goons. Teddy continues to beat John's face in until the man goes unconscious.
McCall is seen playing baseball with his co-workers. Ralphie shows up in a security guard uniform, having passed his test.
The other two dirty cops, Remar (Mike O'Dea) and Pederson (James Wilcox), are eating at Ralphie's mother's restaurant. They extort her for some money and claim that there will be another "accident" if the money isn't on time again. McCall finds them outside the restaurant and says he'd like to report a crime. They brush him off until he calls one of them personally. McCall shows them a video he took of them extorting a convenience store clerk with evidence of their confession to starting the fire at the restaurant. McCall tells them they can either give the money back, or the video will hit the news stations. The cops hold him at gunpoint, but McCall quickly beats them both. They comply and later return the money to Ralphie's mother.
A crook comes to Home Mart and holds the cashier Jenny (Anastasia Mousis) at gunpoint until she hands him the money in the register. McCall calmly comes over and gives him the money. The crook also demands Jenny's ring, which was her mother's. She tearfully hands it to him. McCall observes several details of the man, like his tattoos and his cap. He doesn't make a move since children enter the store with their mother. McCall instead follows the man outside and gets a look at the plates on his car. The cops inform them that this was part of a string of robberies from the same man. McCall then goes to get a sledgehammer off a rack. The next day, Jenny finds her ring in the register. McCall then returns the hammer to the rack after wiping it clean.
Teddy gets some information regarding McCall, most of which appears clean with no indication that he has any involvement with Slavi's death. He and Frank, along with another villain, stake out while one of their guys tries to catch McCall at the diner. McCall knows the man is up to no good, and he asks him if they're waiting for anyone else. The man takes out a gun and starts to walk over to him. A truck pulls up by the diner, obscuring the view for Teddy and company. McCall hits the man in the stomach with his book, and then kills him by slamming his head down on the table and breaking his neck. He then kills the lights by sticking a knife in an outlet. He walks out of the diner and snaps photos of Teddy and his men in their car.
The gangsters follow McCall home. He boils some honey to tend a wound sustained from the gunman. He manages to slip out before Teddy and his goons arrive. From another room, McCall watches them from cameras hidden around his apartment. Teddy knows he is watching.
McCall goes to the home of his friends Brian and Susan Plummer (Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo). McCall knows Susan can gather some information regarding Teddy and the people he works for. While she is out getting what he asked for, Brian tells McCall that he was believed to have been dead, but Susan knew the truth. When she returns, she tells McCall that the men he killed were part of the Russian mafia led by Vladimir Pushkin (Vladimir Kulich). Teddy, who is really named Nicolai, is the man Pushkin sends when something needs to be done. Remar and Pederson were on Pushkin's payroll, but were found dead a few days earlier with their testicles blown off and shoved down their throats. Susan warns McCall that these men won't stop until he and everyone he cares about is dead.
McCall finds Frank and traps him in his car with a hose to poison him with carbon monoxide until he tells him to help him. Frank relents and guides McCall to a warehouse where the Russians keep their money. McCall manages to get all the gangsters there to surrender, and he has them tied up in a room with all the money for the cops to find, and then he frees the workers. The police arrive to find the gangsters and money, and to arrest Frank. McCall then goes to Frank's safety deposit box and gets his money, passport, and a USB containing more information regarding Pushkin and his dealings. He finds his oil tankers and blows them all up.
Teddy and his men overtake Home Mart and hold McCall's friends, including Ralphie and Jenny, hostage unless he goes to confront them. The villains track his cell phone to await his arrival. When he doesn't appear to show, they almost execute one of McCall's coworkers, until music starts playing over the intercom. The gangsters walk out and are steadily killed by McCall as he stealthily moves about the place. He hangs one with barbed wire and stabs another one through the neck, and then kills one by blowing him up in a room with hydrogen in a microwave. Ralphie goes to help McCall until he gets shot in the leg. McCall helps him escape until he's left with Teddy after the explosion sets off the sprinklers. McCall gets a nail gun and shoots Teddy with it repeatedly until he gets him in the throat, killing him.
Three days later, McCall corners Pushkin in his home in Moscow as Pushkin is taking a shower. McCall turns the lights on and off repeatedly and runs the sink water. Pushkin goes by the sink and finds McCall has vanished. He calls for his guards, not realizing that McCall cut the wires and left them exposed. The water hits the wires, and Pushkin is electrocuted. The other guards have already been killed.
McCall returns to Boston and is approached by Alina, no longer bruised up. She tells him she's gotten a real job and has started to do some reading. She thanks McCall for what he did, and she kisses him on the cheek before they bid each other farewell.
The last scene features McCall back at the diner on his laptop. He receives a message asking for help. He simply replies, "Yes."
*CUT TO THE CHASE*
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Robert McCall is a man with a mysterious past, trying to live a quiet life. A teenage girl he has casually befriended is a prostitute who is being beaten and forced to work for a Russian mobster, and Robert cannot stand idly by. He kills her pimps, which sets the Russian mob after him. He uses his skills to kill everyone who comes after him, including the head of the mob. He also secretly helps several of his coworkers in dealing with corrupt cops and an armed robber. The girl is able to leave the mob's control and try to make it as a singer, and Robert decides to continue to use his skills to help people.
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