The action genre is not one known for freshness. Plagued with the usual tropes of “one last job” or “crossing the wrong man,” it’s not surprising that this the most profitable in the international film market. Comedy and drama may occasionally have a breakout, but explosions and fight sequences need no translation. Each year, new entries arrive in theaters with the promise of an enjoyable shoot-em-up experience (hundreds more invade the VOD and direct-to-DVD markets). Though many disappear before finding a real audience, a few eke out a tidy sum where even fewer spawn franchises, spinoffs, and the like.
Sony Pictures is banking on that success for “The Equalizer,” their big screen adaptation of the 1980s television show. Here, Denzel Washington embodies the title role.
Washington plays Robert, a seemingly quiet man working at a home improvement store. No wife or kids, he spends his nights drinking tea and reading at an all night diner. Despite the nondescript exterior, he possesses a strong sense of righting wrongs. Another regular customer of the diner is a teenage prostitute named Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), who one night comes in looking battered. When the abuse escalates and hospitalizes her, Robert attempts to help her find freedom. But what begins as a Good Samaritan gesture leads to Russian mobsters, corrupt cops, and an increasing body count.
Denzel does these type of roles without much effort. The kind man who has an inner darkness is his wheelhouse. In a world where a big star’s name isn’t enough to guarantee success, Denzel still maneuvers around that very obstacle. Reteaming with “Training Day” director Antoine Fuqua, the pair creates another gritty world where evil and good can be as hidden or apparent depending on the measure of each’s notoriety. By casting Marton Csokas as slick and slimy Teddy, the film develops a villain that mirrors what Robert’s nightmares, the other side of his vigilante demeanor.
Though the film has impressive action sequences, the exposition and backstory seem to be the primary focus of the film. In lieu of a fast paced vigilante picture, the script’s need to explain and detail the mundane elements of Robert outside of his dangerous side. By the time the finale arrives, it feels like a long journey to get there. With Sony Pictures already working to create a franchise around this film and Denzel in it, the need to set up every element lessens the potential impact of the finished first film. Another sub-par Denzel movie that will thrill his fanbase and be forgotten by most others. 2.5 out of 5 stars
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