UK Release Date: 26th September 2014
Runtime: 132 minutes
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writer: Richard Wenk
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz, Marton Csokas
Synopsis: A man with a particular set of deadly skills makes it his mission to help people who have been subjected to crimes and injustices.
Denzel Washington is excellent as a cinematic hard man. Such is his status in the industry that there were few eyebrows raised when he was cast in the film reboot for 80s TV series The Equalizer. Unfortunately for Denzel, those who have seen the film now have those eyebrows firmly in the air.
Robert McCall (Washington) is living the quiet life, leaving his mysterious past behind for a job in a hardware store. He frequents a late night diner, where he meets fellow regular Alina (Chloe Grace Moretz) – a teenage prostitute. When Alina is brutally beaten by her pimp, McCall inadvertently takes out a group of mafia men, provoking the ire of Russian enforcer Teddy (Marton Csokas).
The Equalizer is a standard, ordinary action movie in just about every way. It makes no attempt to subvert or highlight tropes, merely ambling its way through the same box of tricks deployed in just about every modern actioner. People walk away from explosions, there’s a conspiracy that “goes right to the top”, people are brutally murdered with power tools and so on and so forth.
| "I am offering you a chance to do the right thing. Take it."
At the centre of it all is a Denzel Washington performance that practically defines the phrase “phoning it in”. He brings none of his natural charisma to the part of McCall, simply going through the motions. It’s case of arrive, crack a few skulls, drop a handful of one-liners, collect the pay cheque and then leave.
The Equalizer is also content to waste the talents of Chloe Grace Moretz, giving her a role near identical to Jodie Foster’s in Taxi Driver and then abandoning her for almost the entirety of the film. She’s the impetus for McCall’s actions, but gets very little screen time. There’s no reminder of why McCall feels compelled to square off against the scenery-chewing Marton Csokas and his team of disposable henchmen.
That’s not say that it’s a complete unqualified failure though. The Equalizer does feature some inventive action sequences and the final showdown in McCall’s hardware store leaves plenty of room for creativity. It almost becomes a slasher movie in the final half an hour, with director Antonie Fuqua conjuring a surprising amount of tension given how unsympathetic the characters are.
| "What do you see when you look at me?"
The film suffers from a simple lack of ambition. There’s very little desire to do anything different with The Equalizer and that leaves the film creatively bankrupt. For every entertaining set piece or flash of brutality, there’s an endless amount of standard blockbuster mayhem. The cast deserve better.
Pop or Poop?
Action remakes are not exactly known as a high watermark for cinematic innovation, but The Equalizer is about as blandly formulaic as they come.
A glittering cast is given little room to make an impact as the movie simply goes through the motions. The sequel is inevitable, but it’s unlikely to be anything other than another dull, bone-headed retread.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.