“I don’t have a lot of time. Which means you don’t have any.”
It is often the quiet, unassuming people who end up being the ones you will never see coming. Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is this type of person in The Equalizer. In his elder stage of living, McCall lives a traditional and perhaps even boring life to some looking in on the outside as a department store manager. You get the feeling that Bob doesn’t mind the lack of excitement so much, as he appears content with his routine of wake up, bus ride to work, work, ride home, eat, and read at the local diner.
Over time, this routine does get a shake-up when a troubled young girl making a living in a rough profession named Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz) befriends McCall. The two begin to share something close until her Russian handlers get in the way and threaten Teri’s well being. Obviously, this does not sit well with Robert and he will not stand idly by. No one knows what this man is capable of, but when odds are insurmountable, he may just be the equalizing force needed to overcome them.
If the Internet didn’t exist, I never would have known that this film was based on a mid to late 80’s television show of the same name. The first thing I always thought of when hearing “The Equalizer” was never a TV show, but rather, the famous tune composed by Sam Spence found in NFL Films productions and many commercials. So even though this film isn’t exactly original, since the TV show came before my time this is basically new stuff to yours truly. After getting into it, The Equalizer isn’t exactly breaking new ground in the action genre, but it does offer a mostly solid two hour viewing experience.
There is no underlying message or nuanced storytelling within The Equalizer. Stereotypical villains and their well-worn operations are present here, with nary a surprise. It certainly works, and it is probably better this way than trying to go for an “epic” story. With that said, there does appear to be some minor untapped potential in that particular department. However, much like its main character, the story does the job in the quickest and systematic way possible. It is a reminder that revenge movies do not need to be elaborate, just effective.
In a surprise to no one, Denzel Washington again turns in a screen-seizing performance as mysterious Robert McCall, proving that he is as close a thing to a bankable movie star in Hollywood today. Bob McCall is mild-mannered, reserved, but deeply involved and invested with the lives of those around them. McCall is always at equilibrium in the most dangerous of situations, which come pretty often here. If there were one word to describe his performance here, placid fits the bill. His character is the type of guy who could literally be stuck in a furnace and not be visibly affected.
The only issue with the character in my opinion, and it isn’t Denzel’s fault, is that Robert McCall is just as mysterious at the end as he is at the beginning for all intents and purposes. He is a man with a complicated past and an impressive skill-set yet this complicated past or impressive skill-set is never really examined or even hinted at where it came from. Well, there is a scene in the movie that attempts to give McCall some backstory but that itself runs needlessly long with hardly any explanation made as to the origins of McCall. I am making him sound like a superhero now but the fact is, while what he can do is awesome, at best it is fuzzy as to how and why he is so deadly.
Without a doubt this is Denzel’s movie, but the main opposition his character clashes with is nothing to scoff at. Martin Csokas plays Teddy, a ruthless Russian crime lord with no compassion for anyone. He just looks and sounds like a creepy man and is everything McCall opposes. His character isn’t fleshed out too thoroughly but neither is this film, and he does a wonderful job of giving the audience someone to despise.
Csokas even holds his own against Washington in the tense confrontation scenes, especially one near the end which is superbly acted. Similar to most crime lords, he’s flanked with an army of henchman but all are indistinguishable and dispensable, just fodder for McCall until the ultimate showdown. Chloe Grace Moretz is probably the 2nd most recognizable name in the cast and while she is good in her very limited screen time, it is almost as if she doesn’t exist for a large part of it, despite her character putting the events in motion.
The Equalizer reunites Denzel Washington with the man who directed his Oscar winning Training Day performance in Antoine Fuqua. While both movies are brutal, Fuqua’s latest is much more in-your-face graphic than his 2001 offering. McCall dispatches his foes in many ways, and Fuqua showcases a unique way of capturing it all. There is this nice, almost Hitman: Absolution/pseudo bullet time-like effect utilized to showcase how McCall assesses a situation. When he (as well as others) does attack, little is left to the imagination. The first few action scenes are good in their own right, but it is the climax that is may be worth the price of admission. It is filmed in a noir-ish style, set to a magnificent musical piece that syncs perfectly with the action. Score-wise, The Equalizer is high quality, with many highlights interspersed throughout.
The main highlight is Washington though, and he is right at home in this type of film, and he gives The Equalizer the credibility it may not possess with another actor in the star role. Though it may not stand on equal ground with legendary action films, the odds are favorable enough for enjoyment.
Photo credits go to blackfilm.com, cinemablend.com, and beliefnet.com
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