This big screen version of the 1980’s series The Equalizer, which starred English actor Edward Woodward as Robert Mccall thrills just as much, if not more, with Denzel Washington playing the former governmental tough guy. The audience certainly enjoyed seeing the star dish out punishment to the bad guys with spontaneous applause breaking out whenever McCall took out another baddie. Widespread laughter in all the right places and a good amount of cheering went on as well. Despite the obvious satisfaction displayed by the majority of the audience there were a few things that could have been changed to enhance the story onscreen.
It is difficult to diss any performance that Washington gives. To downplay his work in this film would not only be unjust but any complaint about his ability to be believable as the deadly former agent would be untrue as well. Any faults with the film lay not with its star but the film itself.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, King Arthur)from a screenplay by Richard Wenk (The Expendables 2, The Mechanic)based upon the television series written by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim, the movie does feel like a big screen version of the TV show just without Woodward. Also missing was the actor’s Englishness and his no-nonsense attitude when helping out the disadvantaged.
59 year-old Washington has a more laid back air, right up till he turns deadly and at that point the cheerful but reflective man gets very serious. Both sides of McCall went over very well with the audience in the theatre. So any faults with the film do not lay with the actor’s work, as said before. What problems that The Equalizer has are all to do with the film’s length, its self-indulgence and its international ending.
At two hours and 11 minutes one’s bum starts fidgeting even if the action on the screen is impressive. Too much reflective time was spent with Washington’s character and too little with others. The actor never really had too much time interacting with Moretz, Pullman or Leo. Washington is a brilliant performer who does not need to shun other brilliant actors. The filmmakers would have been better served letting the man act with his peers and not so much with unknowns. The ending was so over the top that it detracted from the film. Period.
It should also be mentioned that Chloë Grace Moretz was completely wasted in her role as teenage prostitute Teri. All too often filmmakers decide to use whomever is “hot” at the moment whether it is right for a project or not. In this instance, Moretz had so little to do and was given such a stereotypical part to play that anyone could have filled those high-heeled hooker shoes. Nothing against Moretz who can knock it out of the park with alarming regularity, but her lack of screen time leaves one wondering just what will be included in the “deleted scenes” portion of the DVD.
The Equalizer uses Denzel Washington to thrill audiences as Robert McCall, the shadowy man who has a hinted at violent past who is moved to help his fellow man to even up the score. In the television show it was fairly clear just what McCall was in his “prior life.” In the film this is never really explained, although a governmental connection is hinted at after McCall visits Bill Pullman and Melanie Leo, another couple whose ties to McCall are never really too clear.
There are a lot of things hinted at, or suggested, in the film. The movie version of the television classic points to McCall having a sort of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) which is a new addition to the Equalizer’s mythos. This has been extended to show why and how the man is so deadly with his criminal interactions. Employing a technique that was used extensively in the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes films where the protagonist foresees each possibility of a physical encounter does not fit this character. This slow motion pre-playing of events feels tacked on and unnecessary, it also serves to add even more time to an already over long film.
The plot, which really is no different from any other from the television show, although a lot more international in flavor, has McCall retired successfully from his shadowy government job and living an almost spartan existence. His wife is dead and he reads books from her list of “100 books to read.” It is this plot device which allows him to interact with Teri the young Russian prostitute. During the day Washington’s character works at a Home Depot type store and jokes with and helps his co-workers.
It is after McCall makes a connection with the young hooker that he returns to his old violent ways. It is her beating that spurs his decision to aggressively attack her attackers. Sadly, once her character kickstarts the film’s events, Moretz is not seen or heard (except for a short hospital scene where she does nothing but lay in a bed unconscious) until the final act of the film.
The Equalizer then goes through the Russian baddies methodically and viciously, it is interesting that in cinema this year the bad guy of choice is either Russian or from Chechnya, until he works his way to “the head of the snake.” As mentioned above, the audience adored this film. Cheering, applauding and laughing in all the right spots even at the end of the film which unfortunately took this reviewer right out of the moment.
Despite being overly long and too self gratifying, The Equalizer, with Denzel Washington, entertains and thrills. His Robert McCall is different from the small screen version that the film is based upon but it works. It could be said that Washington has played this type of character before; Book of Eli, Man on Fire, et al, but that is a mild complaint. The audience loves seeing Denzel doing what he does best, kicking bad guy butt and taking names but no prisoners. The Equalizer opens September 26 prepare to be thoroughly entertained if not a little disconcerted by the film’s length.
By Michael Smith
Regal Red Rock Stadium 16 & IMAX Movie Theatre