**** 1/2 out of 5
Rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, including some sexual references
Article first published as Movie Review: ‘The Equalizer’ (2014) on Blogcritics.
It’s sad when I have to say that one of the best films I saw in
August didn’t even open until this weekend. But alas, director Antoine
Fuqua and Denzel Washington have reunited to deliver one of the best
TV-to-film adaptations with The Equalizer. When I saw the
trailer, I was not impressed. It looked like another run of the mill
thriller, with a convoluted sounding plot and nothing to distinguish
itself outside the names of Fuqua and Denzel. Thankfully, The Equalizer is a big ol’ blast of badass that audiences are in dire need of.
McCall (Washington) lives a quiet life in Boston. His apartment is bare
bones and he works at the local home improvement store where he helps
encourage his co-worker Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis) to lose weight in
order to get the security job at work. Robert spends his nights with
insomnia, watching the hours pass by at a local diner reading books and
waxing philosophical with a teenage escort named Teri (Chloe Grace
Moretz). When Teri ends up in the hospital, Robert goes to make a deal
with her pimp Slavi (David Meunier) and is left with no other choice but
to kill everyone. Now, Robert has triggered a war against the Russian
mob with their number one fixer, Teddy (Marton Csokas), trying to find
out who Robert really is, find him, and kill him.
Perhaps the biggest surprise about The Equalizer is its
attention to character. Fuqua’s restrained direction helps build tension
as we get to know Robert and actually care for his survival. That’s
something most action films rarely see these days with
shoot-first-character-second attitude. Fuqua has also surrounded
Washington with some great costars—Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo as
friends from his former life. Leo is no stranger to the Equalizer’s world having guest starred on the original series. It’s also a reunion for Leo and Fuqua as she appeared in Olympus Has Fallen.
Screenwriter Richard Wenk never comes right out and divulges McCall’s
past, but it becomes pretty clear as the film rolls on—especially
during the big finale. Let’s just say, never play Home Alone
with a trained killer in a Home Depot-type store. This whole sequence
could also be looked at as a brilliant send-up of his early days
directing Black & Decker commercials. Washington continues to get
more badass with each film, showing no signs of slowing down. And while
they may not be aiming for the Academy Awards again—back when Washington
won for Training Day— the two of them work so well together, I
welcome any sequel they have to offer. That’s something which is set up
in the last scene. The Equalizer is one of the year’s best thrillers.
Photo courtesy Columbia Pictures