TV properties getting adapted for the big screen has gotten to the point that it is so common place that it is hardly a surprise any more, even when the adaptations get looser and looser. “The Equalizer” is a straight ahead action thriller that is more than a little uneven but still gets to where it needs to be.
McCall (Denzel Washington) is a former black ops operative who faked his death to live a quiet life in Boston after the death if his wife, and the less anyone around him knows about his old job, the better it is for them. He comes out of his self-imposed retirement to rescue a young girl, Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), he finds himself face to face with ultra-violent Russian gangsters who don’t ask questions, they just inflict pain. As he serves his unique brand of vengeance against those who brutalize the helpless, McCall’s desire for justice is reawakened as he discovers that he does have the power to help and mark a clear line between what is right and what is wrong. If someone has a problem and the odds are stacked against them with nowhere else to turn, McCall will help, every way he knows how bringing a fresh sense of justice back to the violent city streets.
It has moments where it drags on far, far too long, but director Antoine Fuqua has taken “The Equalizer” and given it a bad ass no nonsense feel that helps us over look some gaping holes in logic throughout the movie.
Antoine Fuqua and his director of photography Mauro Fiore simply shoot the hell out of this story from beginning to end and it is a marvel to watch because even the moments that are way too over stylized work in balance with this story of a man who is very much hiding from what he was and in many ways the reflection of the man that he used to be. The script from writer Richard Wenk could have used some serious trimming and there were some extended moments that just dragged and could have been handled in a much more efficient manner. The overall tone of the movie tends to pendulum between taking itself too seriously and not taking itself seriously enough. The leading protagonists were clear cut and well drawn out characters, if all be it simple ones, but it was in the supporting players where this movie needed some work.
Denzel is trying his very best to channel some Liam Neeson level badass in this movie and even though he comes awfully close he just doesn’t get there until the final act of the film when he is unleashing all kinds of violence in a beautiful action set piece at the climax of the movie. Marton Csokas chews all kinds of scenery as our Russian henchman Teddy and both Csokas and Washington have good chemistry dueling back and forth. Sadly there really isn’t anyone else in the movie. Chloe Moretz is in the movie for about 15-20 minutes and David Harbour is only around for about the same as a crooked cop working for the Russian mob. We never really get invested in any of the surrounding characters and when Washington’s McCall goes dark to get some assistance from his old government friends we get Melissa Leo and Bill Pullman for a break from the violence that feels terribly awkward and out of place.
At the end of the day, “The Equalizer” is a stylish yet violent affair that will satisfy most audiences but I can’t help but feel like this could have been a lot more special and interesting than it actually was.
3 out of 5 stars.
“The Equalizer” is now open in theatres all across the country, please check with your local listings for show times.