The Equalizer balances out to another winner for Denzel.
With Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua re-teaming, the Training Day comparisons in their latest, The Equalizer, were inevitable. While this hyper-violent, but satisfying, action thriller won’t result in another Best Actor Oscar for Washington as their previous collaboration, it’s a heck of a fun explosive effort.
Based on the 1985-1989 TV series starring Edward Woodward, the film adaptation retains the basic theme of a kind stranger helping those who can’t help themselves, but triples up on the violence — some of which will prove especially brutal for the easily squeamish.
Robert McCall (Washington,2 Guns) sticks to a very specific regiment. His clothes are properly folded, dishes cleaned immediately after eating, daily shave and shower and promptly on the bus by a set time. Robert is efficient in all walks of life.
By day, he works at a Home Depot stand-in doing a little of everything in addition to helping his co-worker, Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis), train for a security exam. But on most sleepless nights, Robert goes to the nearby diner to read and have random conversations with Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz, Kick Ass 2), a young prostitute.
When Teri is savagely beaten by her pimp, Robert decides to take matters into his own hand to mete out justice and takes out the pimp and his goons. Robert’s vigilante justice draws the attention of Teddy (Martin Csokas, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), a Russian ‘fixer,’ who plans to make an example of anyone who crosses his employer.
Richard Wenk (The Expendables 2) is not a screenwriter to shy away from scripting some borderline horror movie kills and he makes creative use of McCall’s workplace in the final act. It’s OK though as the bad guys are so horrible you’re not gonna feel any sympathy and will likely be rooting for Robert to wipe them all out. The script isn’t particularly distinct or cutting edge, but having Washington and Csokas tackle the dialogue makes even the most generic lines have greater significance.
For much of the film, Fuqua sends Teddy loose on the streets of Boston in a cat and mouse hunting down Robert, who has found new meaning in life by using his skills to aid the defenseless and fighting back against the predators that would prey upon them.
In Teddy, Robert has met his psychotic, twisted match. I’ve long been a fan of the versatile Csokas, who can play a solemn elegant elf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy as easily as he can transform into a lunatic terrorist sect leader in xXx. Working against Washington provides Csokas his biggest spotlight and he fully seizes the moment making Teddy an unpredictably dangerous character.
As usual, Washington delivers his consistently A-level performance to the point he makes it look effortless. With Washington’s audience goodwill, the level of violence Robert utilizes doesn’t seem as over the top as it probably should.
Fuqua, who staged some really beautiful shots in the underrated Tears of the Sun, doesn’t have as many opportunities for breathtaking visuals, but he frequently finds unique camera perspectives and lighting techniques to make the film look like a higher-class action blockbuster. The Equalizer starts to get a bit longer than necessary at the final act — revenge thrillers don’t need to cross the two-hour mark — but the action makes up for the length.
The Equalizer is a project that you can see all of the ways it could have gone wrong, but Washington and Fuqua are too skilled and talented for this to be a wasted effort for everyone involved. And while neither has dabbled in reruns, they could potentially have a franchise on their hands if they’re up for future installments. For now, this film is equal to the task of entertaining audiences.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10