The Equalizer – Review
Consider this, Director Antoine Fuqua is sitting at home or in a movie theater or maybe on a plane. He’s looking for inspiration anywhere for his next project, maybe – hopefully something that he can write and develop with the two time Academy Award winning actor Denzel Washington in mind, who by the way won one of his Oscars under his directing stewardship in the 2001 effort entitled “Training Day”.
After running through probably several ideas Mr. Fuqua starts to contemplate on movies he may have seen before, some of which Denzel was in. Maybe he thinks to himself if he would take just a bit of the “Man on Fire” John Creasy’s vigilante mind set, dead pan coldness and emotional wounding, along with the same subtle invoking of violent moral correctness. Then if he added just a bit of the “Book of Eli” lead character Eli who was a somber mysterious wanderer who had an obsession with a mysterious book but who was also blessed with a lethal “particular set of skills”. You take these traits, mix in some Jason Bourne high I.Q. intelligence to pre-navigate, operate and extract himself out almost seemingly impossible situations. Sprinkle some of Liam Neeson’s “Taken” soften spoken cool assuredness and finally add just a tinge of some “Jason Voorhees” gruesome violence for shock value effect and “Voila” or “Eureka” (which ever you prefer); you have “The Equalizer - 2014”.
Now let’s be clear, this movie is far from the 1980’s “The Equalizer” TV version starring British Actor Edward Woodward who was more of an avuncular erudite middle aged type as the retired intelligence officer with a mysterious past who helped people in trouble. Woodward’s McCall was far more passively stoic and would engage in the occasional fist fight and or draw his gun with the intent of only doing so for self-preservation. In Actor Denzel and Director Fuqua reimagining of this character, they have raised the ante big time with a more modern Robert McCall who is best described here in this adaptation as a predatory wolf with a complete singular focus for total complete ruthlessness.
In the beginning we see McCall living alone in an understated, modest, very neat and clean apartment getting ready for work as an Associate at a Home Depot-ish store. He is highly meticulous at work, warm to his co-workers and has a good heart but is also somewhat shy along with a preoccupation for orderliness and the current time on his watch.
Typically, after work he goes to a small Boston corner café to drink tea and read a book (Book of Eli) that is more often some well-known classic novel. He finds the location peaceful and possibly a good location to reflect on life, maybe his past life as well. And it is at the same café he frequently runs into a young girl who is a working prostitute that is named Teri who also apparently is a regular there who uses the café address to meet her “Johns” who routinely drive up outside the door. While waiting on her Russian Mobster pimp nightly calls, Teri and McCall typically have a friendly but pedestrian verbal exchange discussing the latest status of a certain chapter or details of whatever book Mc Call is reading at the time.
One night at the café Teri goes outside to meet her Russian pimp who has just driven up. As Teri walks to the car he immediately proceeds to exhibit his displeasure with her for something she did by brutally beating her. McCall observes the beating without as much of a flinch of overt or outward emotional response. Still nonetheless it clearly bothers him and unexpectedly he (we) realize at that moment he has become more attached to the young girl than simple befriending (Man on Fire) and while he is very reluctant to return to his previous mysterious life, something in that very moment has risen up with him to reignited those “set of particular skills” to go into kid protection – people protection mode (Man on Fire) by getting personally involved. He is now going to seek that pimp out to set things right.
The Equalizer has its moments of ridiculous cliché with some convoluted situations to give us an early sense of McCall’s prowess as this highly technical formidable fighting and killing expert. But what is it in the long run is a non-stop thrilling platform of primal violence that is far from subtle with just a smidgen of humor to keep you very, very entertained throughout the 2 hour running time.
Fuqua makes the boundaries in this movie very clear and distinct – stylish and slick. In McCall’s mind there are people in the world who are good, decent and hardworking and then there are others who simply operate in that same universe exuding evil, greed, brutality and death. For McCall it’s up to the good guys to prevail by fighting this evil fire with a, metaphorical speaking, thermal nuclear mano a mano response. He intends to kill everything.
The Equalizer worked for me because while the bad guys seem somewhat preposterously bad and formulaic, they are nonetheless excellent in their badness. They are savage in their thinking and their actions and Fuqua delivers them in scene after scene with genuine tenseness and clarity with rousing execution. He also manages to deliver McCall’s persona as some dark angel of salvation with a Jason Voorhees flair for killing minus the Hockey mask and grungy pants with what felt like an endless body count supply of Russian anti-Christ type mobsters and devilish type corrupt cops to dispatch.
There is no back story here as to why McCall is so socially detached the way he is nor is there any real meaningful subplots for us to contemplate. This is a film where the bad guys are so ruthlessly bad we can’t wait for Denzel’s McCall to give them what they deserve with extreme high octane prejudice.
When I review a movie, I try to be fair to those involved with its creation to simply ask did they deliver what they said they would. In this case I said yes. And while the film is extremely violent and blood thirsty oozing with copious amounts of blood, along with a flawed last dramatic moment that I thought was stupid and not needed at all, I still found The Equalizer to be highly creative and cool.
Finally, Denzel said in an interview he will never see a Home Depot the same way. If you see The Equalizer, you will never see a Home Depot the same way either, nor any of its aisles.
3 – 3/4 Stars