Antoine Fuqua’s new action/crime movie Equalizer blends Taken with Training Day to create a successful shoot-em-up that is elevated by the haunting performance of Denzel Washington as a reluctant superhero.
Following in the footsteps of Liam Neeson, Denzel proves sixty is the new sexy for movie sickle-swingers. He plays Robert McCall, a self-exiled former CIA killer who promised his dead wife he’d give up the wet stuff, banishing himself to the endless lands and metal forests of a Home Depot-ish big-box store. However, like Shane and so many wandering angels before and after, Denzel’s mysterious character feels compelled to “make one last exception” and return with a vengeance when some bad guys do a deed so dirty it offends his now-gentle disposition.
Using looks that speak more than an epic monologue, Denzel’s McCall communicates tragedy, suffering, melancholy, guilt and rage all at the same time. And, yes, he even has a look that says, “You asking me if I’m back? Yeah, I’m thinkin’ I’m back.”
The intolerable injustice that pushes McCall across the Rubicon is the maltreatment of a big-eyed young hooker (the always-interesting Chloe Grace Moretz). Being a civilized and logical man, McCall attempts to resolve the problem with a calm business proposal. Of course, the cartoonishly evil Russian mobsters scoff at him. The conflicted look in McCall’s eyes raise the suspicion that this was his subconscious intent all along, foisting an inadequate offer to rationalize the rage he is boiling to unleash.
The early confrontations are wonderfully loaded with subtlety, subtext and underplayed tension. This make those exchanges all the more frightening for the unspoken, unknown violence that is certain to explode within hours – or seconds. Such moments succeed because of Denzel’s mesmerizing emotional repertoire, which lifts this action flick several notches above the norm.
Besides the stock company of clichéd Russian mobsters, the only flaws in the film are the standard Hollywood big-shootout ending and the setting for that climax, a stale set-piece full of predictably improvised weapons. The character-intense scenes that precede the big showdown create the expectation of a climactic revelatory confrontation between McCall and his nemesis, but unfortunately that wow moment was discarded in favor of a videogame-style high body count.
The Equalizer comes from a long line of television and movie incarnations. The commercial and artistic success of this venture ensures there will be an Equalizer 2 (Equalizer on Fire?). This is thanks primarily to Denzel Washington, who has a very particular set of skills that he has acquired over a very long career, which make him a nightmare to those actors who have not yet mastered them, and a delight to all of us who appreciate them.
Check out the official movie trailer at