Starring: Denzel Washington, Chloë Grace Moretz, Marton Csokas
Genre: Action/ Thriller
Robert McCall (Washington) is a quiet and very private man who works at a DIY store in Boston and spends his evenings reading books at his local diner, where he has become friends with a prostitute called Teri (Moretz). Teri is unable to escape the life she leads because of the violent Russian Gangsters who claim to own her, despite Robert telling her she can be whatever she wants to be. However, after Teri is very badly beaten, Robert feels compelled to help her and so, using special skills acquired in his past, comes out of self imposed retirement to take down those men responsible. However, these men are part of the Boston arm of a powerful Russian gangster and what Robert McCall has started is all out war. If he is to survive and finish what he has started, then it will require him to become once again the man he promised his late wife he would never be again.
Well if any man can take down a plethora of nasty caricatured Russian gangsters then it is probably good ol’ Denzel isn’t it? Though it may have the same title as the Edward Woodward 1980’s TV series and name of the protagonist, make no mistake, this is just another typical Hollywood action movie. There are attempts to keep the violence old school, especially in the film’s DIY store set finale, but this is The Equalizer directed by Antoine Fuqua after all, and so what we have is a completely dumb action film.
That is not necessarily a bad thing, but when it is essentially a b movie that happens to have a large budget and stars Denzel Washington, BUT is 130 minutes long then that is a problem. This is a film that should in no way go over the 100 minute mark, and so a dumb action movie is one thing, but The Equalizer is often a real effort to watch. Let’s be honest, we don’t need character development or lame attempts at justification for a bald headed Denzel going on a rampage, which is the reason why most people are watching this. We just want to see Denzel unleash in the only way he knows how and Fuqua should just let him get on with it, no matter how outrageously clichéd Richard Wenk’s script is, its Denzel Washington; of course we are going to be on his side! However we are often forced to trawl through dialogue heavy scenes that go on for far longer than they should, and they truly achieve nothing.
There is of course nothing wrong with a film combining brutal violence with a genuine sense of morality, having a long running time and slow, detailed character development. In fact, I would love that as it is extremely rare in this day and age, especially with films that have big budgets. Make no mistake; The Equalizer is not that film, for that I would recommend the excellent Blue Ruin. The character development and moral messages may there at first, albeit written with horrendous clichés, but they soon get completely lost once Denzel starts his one man war. So, it is a shame when the film was in the editing process that those responsible didn’t seem to notice this and could have let us all leave the cinema 30 minutes earlier!
This is a crime rent-a-director Antoine Fuqua has been guilty of before; his constant tendency to feel a desperate need to stamp his own mark on films he has been hired to direct is particularly evident in The Equalizer with camera work and shots from all sorts of angles, as well as slightly irritating super slow-mos that Fuqua obviously thought added style to the film. As much as the action sequences are often quite slick, all it does predominantly add is more unwanted running time. It really would help sometimes if writers and directors remember exactly what film they are making and not have some deluded illusions of grandeur that threaten to undermine the entire thing and bore the audience.
When there is action then The Equalizer is good dumb fun, Fuqua does know how to make slick action (sometimes), and the 15 certificate violence is at times quite brutal (apparently the original cut was an 18, so expect that with the blu-ray release). It is also quite refreshing in this day and age with so many films desperately seeking a potentially more financially lucrative 12A certificate that The Equalizer is so violent. Which is also good is that there does seem to be a genuine attempt to go for an eighties action film with more combat and Denzel’s clever use of the products on sale at his DIY store, and not to mention Harry Gregson-Williams’ synth-tastic score.
Stepping into Edward Woodward’s shoes, Denzel is of course a safe pair of hands in any action film. His natural screen charisma and unique way of delivering justice with his trademark smug know-it-all approach of course makes The Equalizer infinitely more watchable and elevates what is dumb, lazy and cliché-ridden material. When at its best, The Equalizer is highly entertaining violent nonsense with added Denzel smugness, but it is just a real shame the film (and Fuqua) takes things so seriously.
Denzel is of course on top form, and his existence in The Equalizer alone elevates the fact it is just another dumb, cliché-ridden action film. Thanks to a running time that is at least 30 minutes too long, as well as misguided and lazy attempts at apparent serious character development, The Equalizer is at times a bit of a slog, but the slick action and brutal violence just about save it.