Given the summer movie season that just ended with a deficit at the box office, many will wonder, and rightfully so, why The Equalizer wasn’t released then.
It possesses all the elements, some of the best parts of a blockbuster summer flick and also some of its worst elements.
But beneath it all, The Equalizer never, ever fails to entertain. Don’t go in expecting something Oscar worthy. Don’t judge too harshly. Just enjoy it because even with its faults, it succeeds at what it’s meant to do.
Based on the 1980s TV series that starred Edward Woodward as a mysterious man who advertised his services for righting wrongs in the newspaper and often came to the rescue of his desperate clients, director Antoine Fuqua makes some less-than-subtle changes.
He once again collaborates with Denzel Washington, who inhabits the main role as Robert McCall. He’s a former CIA operative, assassin, whatever you want to call him, living a life of a mild-mannered clerk at a Home Depot-like store.
He’s well-liked and he’s at peace with what he once was, neither needing nor wanting the life. But at his core, despite the fact that he killed for a living, he possesses a good soul. Call it one of those cinematic moments of irony and cliche. But a kind-hearted young prostitute (Chloe Grace Moretz), who yearns for something better for herself, notices it.
McCall befriends her and eventually witnesses the brutality of her pimp and decides to do something about it. That something eventually leads to him killing him and all of his henchmen. What he doesn’t realize that they’re tied to the local Russian mob and he has disrupted the organization’s business operations all the way to Moscow. Needless to say, he instantly becomes a wanted man. That forces McCall to return to the life he’d forsaken.
The Equalizer is rife with clichés courtesy of Richard Wenk’s script, but the film has Washington and the director who guided him to one of the two Oscars he owns, which came from Training Day.
Washington’s McCall is cool, calm a bit obsessive compulsive and dangerous when pushed. Washington brings all of that to the forefront and makes the movie worth the time with his performance. With a better script this could have been a cut above a standard actioner.
Fuqua’s direction proves hit-or-miss. He excels at building tension, especially for the movie’s climax. Yes, there’s a “but” and that comes because of his annoying use of slow motion and other techniques.
Is it high art? No, but The Equalizer is a guilty pleasure that entertains.
Movie: The Equalizer
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz, Melissa Leo
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Rated: R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, including some sexual references
Running time: 131 minutes
George’s rating: 3-of-5 stars
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com