Dir: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Moretz, Melissa Leo, Bill Pullman, Haley Bennett, David Meunier
Run-Time: 131 Mins
Presumably because he thought it was too soon to remake his own Man on Fire, Denzel Washington instead remakes 1980’s TV series The Equalizer where he stars as Robert McCall, an insomniac vigilante mastermind killer because that’s exactly what the plot requires him to be.
He holds down a 9-5 at a home supplies store and wiles away his evenings reading in a diner and befriending young prostitute Chloe Moretz (in the first twenty and last two minutes – don’t get attached), until her pimp beats her up badly enough to put her in hospital and Denzel decides to kill him and half of the other Russians in Boston.
That’s when the Russian mob sends in its enforcer, Marton Csokas, and as Denzel busies himself with outsmarting corrupt cops and helping a friend pass a security guards entrance exam Csokas begins to hunt Denzel down.
McCall outclasses everyone so easily there is no suspense, and at two and a bit hours it outstays its welcome with actor, script and director all in no rush to get anywhere in-particular. And yet, mostly thanks to the presence of Denzel Washington The Equalizer is far from an unenjoyable experience. Director Fuqua is certainly smart enough to just let Denzel be Denzel and through the sheer weight of his intensity and screen presence Washington puts in a star turn. This is the definition of star vehicle; an actor making a film rather than the other way around.
There is a Home Alone style homemade charm to many of McCall’s improvised weapons and the action is certainly stylishly shot and edited. McCall’s backstory is also well handled – we’re told just as much as we need to know while leaving much a satisfying mystery.
The script rarely even bothers to attempt subtlety and when it does try it doesn’t always hit – an early reference to Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is blunt but serves a purpose in comparing the main character of each; later literary illusions are smug – any deeper meaning to be found in The Equalizer is to be found in Denzel’s frowns, or a change in expression which shows he’s gone from being slightly to very pissed off.
Short of a wholly stupid and insulting coda in Moscow, The Equalizer actually does enough with a star lead turn and good action sequences to suggest that a sequel wouldn’t be an unpleasant idea.