The new action-drama “The Equalizer” pairs a steely performance from Denzel Washington with intense and graphic retaliatory action.
Denzel Washington takes the lead role in “The Equalizer,” a new film directed by Antoine Fuqua and based upon the 80s CBS television series of the same name. As in the series, “The Equalizer,” Robert “Bob” McCall is a former deep-cover agent of a CIA-allied agency who has seemingly tried to invent a new life for himself.
McCall lives quietly in Boston, having a seemingly sparse life in a neatly ordered apartment, while spending his unassuming days apron-clad and working at a Home Depot-style knock-off, Home Mart. But, on several of his many sleepless nights, McCall comes to a “Nighthawks”-like city diner to sip tea and read from The Old Man and the Sea. During these many nighttime visits, he forms a tenuous friendship with a vulnerable young denizen of the night, Alina (Chloe Grace Moretz). When Alina, who forcibly works for a Russian-run prostitution ring, goes missing and turns up badly beaten in a local ICU, McCall decides to reactivate his particular set of skills (a la Liam Neeson in “Taken”) and enact bloody revenge on her Russian-mob connected pimps. Unfortunately, his actions have dangerous multinational reverberations.
Fuqua, who directed Washington in one of his best performances (“Training Day”), knows how to work with his leading man and gets a strong performance from Washington. Most certainly, Washington skillfully balances a privately caring and intellectual character who can also become cold, calculated, and relentlessly barbarous against those who violate his sense of morality. Moretz also gives a fine portrayal as a young prostitute searching for more than her entrapment. Their scenes together are some of the best in the film, unfortunately, Moretz largely disappears after the film’s first act.
The quiet first 40 minutes or so of the film, however, soon erupt into full-on violence, most notable for the multitude of gory dispatches of baddies who get in the way of the near-superhero McCall. Only one, the heavily tattooed, Teddy (Marton Csokas), a vicious Russian-sent mobster in a designer suit, appears to pose any threat to the unflinching McCall, but even that threat feels very low level. As such, a 131 minutes of kill-after-kill leaves very little room for storyline exposition, leading “The Equalizer” to feel somewhat like an ultra-violent, but superficial, TV movie. In all, Denzel Washington performs to the hilt as a middle-aged unstoppable force but his character has very little to do other than slaughter under the guise of protecting others. Those seeking a more intricate tale of redemption (teased, in part, by McCall’s reading of Hemingway) will find the film lacking. “The Equalizer,” rated “R” (for “bloody violence and language, including some sexual references”), is rated 3 of 5 stars.
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