Denzel Washington’s movie, The Equalizer, a collaboration with director Antoine Fuqua, leveled the competition at the box office in its opening weekend to the tune of $35 million. It doubled the performance of the number two movie, The Maze Runner, now in its second week. The Equalizer was the fourth highest debut in history. Washington is a bonafide box office draw, and usually can be counted on to open a movie well. Also, after the success of the first Washington-Fuqua collaboration, Training Day, in 2001, people wanted to see what they would come up with next. They made a lot of moviegoers happy.
The original source from which Washington’s The Equalizer came was a popular TV series in the 80’s by the same name starring Edward Woodward. With the success of the feature, the idea of a renewal of the series is probably floating around in some producer’s head right now. The Equalizer, Robert McCall, is Washington’s character in the movie and is a private detective known for getting jobs done that no one else can. Washington is a natural this kind of role. His charisma and exceptional talent (see him in A Soldier’s Story) enable him to come through with flying colors in just about any role he takes on.
In The Equalizer and also in the film Man On Fire, the audiences get the feeling there is no one quite like him. Movie watchers feel the confidence and moral strength of the character Washington is playing. He and other actors of his kind, like Al Pacino or Sean Penn, are much larger on the screen than their real life personas. They may not even be noticeable in a crowd; which is a rare and peculiar reality for a movie star. However, they are all about the work and the acting. The fact that the camera loves them is merely happenstance.
One wonders what Washington and Fuqua’s next collaboration will be. Taking a TV series like The Equalizer and making a movie out of it that levels the competition shows that the two men have some idea what they are doing. There were those who thought the choice of material for this second collaboration was ill-chosen and would fail. Despite this, The Equalizer is a resounding success; since it has had great success, he and Fuqua can do whatever they want next time around.
Returning collaborations between directors and stars have produced some of the best movies made. Elia Kazan and Marlon Brando; Martin Scorcese and Robert DeNiro (and presently, Scorcese-Leonardo DiCaprio); Alfred Hitchcock and Jimmy Stewart; and Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood are all collaborations which have produced milestones in cinema. Washington and Fuqua are no different.
So if The Equalizer can level the competition, no one knows what could happen if he and Fuqua decide to do a thriller next, or even a love story. Moviegoers have not really seen Washington in a memorable love story with an actress who could hold her own next to him. But Meryl Streep is still around, and so is Angela Basset. Whatever he and Fuqua decide to collaborate on next, it is sure to be very successful at the box office.
Commentary by Nile Ford