Dr. Donna Copeland’s
Denzel Washington seems perfect for the role of The Equalizer. He comes across as a quiet, simple man who listens and responds to whatever people are telling him, and when they’re encountering a problem, he is of aid by encouraging them in ways that will help them achieve their goals. The equalizer part comes in when someone is being taken advantage of, and he steps in to equalize the situation. Beneath the open, sincere exterior, he is constantly surveying his surroundings and is prepared for any surprise turn of events. So he ends up being the one doing the surprising.
He does have a sleep disorder, so may go to a local diner in the middle of the night and read while he eats. There, he encounters a young woman who is obviously a prostitute, and they begin chatting as friends. When she comes in one evening with her face messed up and he observes Russian men forcing her to go with a man who will abuse her, it strikes a chord within him, and he decides this is a situation to do some equalizing.
It turns out that Robert McCall (Washington) is an ex-CIA agent who faked his death in order to lead a quiet life and help people on the q.t. The problem is that by helping Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz) he encounters a ring of Russian “businessmen” who have managed to corrupt the local police department. This gives us a chance to see the considerable skills Robert possesses in fighting and his ingenuity in rigging up entrapping devices, all while giving the other person the opportunity to do the right thing and letting them know the consequences if they choose not to.
The Equalizer is a well-configured story that—while not entirely new—it breezes right along, with tense standoffs and exciting martial arts fights. The Russians know immediately that they are dealing with an expert who is well trained, so they send their best, Pushkin (Vladimir Kulich), who comes across as a Putin-esque figure who’s used to getting his way or else. Director Antoine Fuqua allows a long time for the bad guys to ponder the choices McCall has given them to consider; the camera lingers, as it dawns on them what they’re up against. Cinematographer Mauro Fiore adds a very artistic touch to these times showing one close-up after another—McCall’s eye, the butt of a gun, a piece of a collar—which turn out to be elegant compositions that help transmit the tension of the scene to the viewer.
The talented Chloe Grace Moretz plays the role of Teri; and although it serves the story line for her to disappear about a third of the way through, I missed seeing more of her in this film. What she is able to do, however, is just as impressive as her other work. Melissa Leo and Bill Pullman are listed as stars, but they are on so briefly, their appearance is more like a cameo.
A spirited action film that has an uplifting underlying message.
By Donna R. Copeland
DENZEL WASHINGTON MARTON CSOKAS
CHLOE GRACE MORETZ MELISSA LEO BILL PULLMAN
Director Antoine Fuqua has functioned as a one-hit wonder of a director since his political awards luck in 2001 gave Denzel Washington his second Oscar nomination for the highly overrated Training Day. Since then, Fuqua has limped along as a director with failed action films like Tears of the Sun, King Arthur and last year’s Olympus Has Fallen. So he returns to his good luck charm, Washington, in hopes of restarting his career. It will probably work too. The Equalizer, for all its over-the-top violence and heroic predictability, is quite a good ride, not because of the watered-down action and heightened suspense, but because of the duality between good and evil. It pushes the villain to the brink of madness and gives the audience a reason to applaud the bad guys’ getting tortured with no mercy.
In another life, Robert McCall (Washington) was a killer, but for the good guys. After the death of his wife, he left all that behind, and now is a solitary man with a simple life and a mundane job at the local Boston area hardware mega store. His life is about helping his overweight co-worker lose weight, or reading his wife’s 100 books, until a local underage Russian prostitute (Moretz) needs help. McCall is the type that can flip a switch, returning back to his old life, but when he fixes one problem, the entire Russian Mafia comes to Boston to see who would dare mess with their organization and way of life. “Who are you?” they keep asking, but never last long enough to find the answer.
If you didn’t already know, The Equalizer is a two-hours-plus film, the opening sequence of which is a slow reveal of McCall’s small apartment. The camera moves throughout each room, revealing an ordinary looking man getting ready for work. The small details clue us in to his life after work and his sleeping habits, but as one of the characters explains later in the film, “everything about him is wrong.” Indeed, McCall is exactly like Bruce Wayne; in fact, Denzel Washington might as well be wearing a cape with a big E on it because he is the superhero. The unnecessary number of comic book superhero films only help to reflect why this film feels original, unique, and fresh, even, although that’s probably just a ruse.
The taunt between the hero and the villain, played by the reputable actor Csokas, is when the film is at its strongest. The script, based on the 1980’s television series, doesn’t fall victim to many of the weak action-film elements; McCall is strong, focused, and completely undeterred by even the most threatening of criminals. He is a weapon, and the script never forgets it. Sure, 59-year-old Washington might be the unwitting hero to deploy such fierce madness upon those whom the script says are deserving; however, as he proves in every role, no one can beat a stare-down with Washington. In one sequence, where McCall ignites some oil tankers to send a message, he is literally a “Man on Fire”.
Final Thought – As typical Washington action/suspense films go, this is one of the better ones.
By: Dustin Chase