Denzel Washington is getting older, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t still kick butt and take names. He proves this in his new film The Equalizer, in which he plays a good-hearted guy with a secret set of highly honed skills. The Equalizer has some casting and background issues, but the leading man will definitely keep you entertained.
In the trailer, Robert McCall (Washington) tells a young girl named Alina that the man in the book he is reading is trying to be a knight in a world where knights don’t exist anymore. Actually, though, that is what McCall is doing. You see, Alina is a russian call girl who has baked goods in a diner each night while she waits for her next client. Each night McCall sits across the diner with his book, not-so-conspiculously watching over her. When things go south for her, McCall decides that things must also take a turn for the people who harmed her. You discover that the gentle bookworm in the corner is much more than meets the eye. He wants everyone to succeed, sure, but he will take whatever measures he needs to in order to make that happen.
So, how exactly does this man have such a remarkable gift for inflicting pain onto the evil people in this world? It will be hard to tell you, as the writing is a little fuzzy in that area. You hear a lot of backstory through dialogue in the diner, as well as a scene between Washinton and Melissa Leo (whose relationship to McCall is also pretty unclear). You find out that –not really much of a spoiler — Robert decided to take a chance at a normal, quiet life after the passing of his wife. However, no one really explains why his past life was so violent or why no one seems to be worried that he is back at it again. People should be worried. There is an outrageous amount of grotesque violence in this film and the man almost never cleans up after himself, yet the only people who seem to care about the danger are the russian pimps that he is chasing.
For all the things the script never really makes clear, they sure spend a lot of time trying to develop backstories for the lead character and his muse. The beginning of the film, before the action starts happening, is too lengthy. It is understandable why the director felt he needed to keep all of it, but it still drags on. The movie runs over two hours and, while the action sequences are definitely worth watching, it could have been cut down to a shorter run time.
The casting in the film is hit or miss. Denzel gives, per usual, a great performance. He is a perfect blend of sweet and vicious. Chloe Grace Moretz plays her part well, but perhaps was not the best choice for her role. Almost every one of the russians looks the part, except Moretz who is obviously straight up American. They explain it’s that she came to America when she was young, but children still pick up pieces of accents from family and she would still look different facially. She also looks a lot younger than she actually is, which does not help her case when playing a lady of the night. Her boss’ right hand man Teddy falls into the same category. He looks slightly foreign, but sports what sounds like an English accent instead of a Russian one. As the film progresses he gets more russian, sort of. However, there is a shining star in the form of actor David Harbour. His Boston accent is solid throughout the film and he is a rounded out character who stands out in all of his scenes.
If gore is not your cup of tea, skip this film altogether. While from the trailer you can gather than Denzel Washington will be killing people, you have never seen kills like this. A lot of them are creative, yes, but watching people bleed out slowly on screen after being stabbed with a wine opener might be too much for your eyes and stomach. At first it is not frequent enough to be a huge problem, but by the climax of the film, several audience members at the screening were closing their eyes and plugging their ears. Why the ears? Because the brilliant sound design lets the viewer listen in all too closely to the sounds of pierced flesh. You are welcome.
The Equalizer is another Denzel action picture that will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat. While some pieces of information are vague, a lot of things are definitely not left to the imagination. The action would make it worth seeing in a theater, but the violence may need to be seen on a smaller screen so that you do not feel like you yourself are doused in blood.