The Equalizer – a movie that desperately tries to spin Denzel Washington’s role as something wholly new and inventive, yet anyone familiar with one of Hollywood’s most established talents will know exactly the kind of performance Washington brings to Robert McCall. In what could essentially be a prequel to Man On Fire, director Antoine Fuqua creates a “different kind of superhero” by remaking a 1980s television series that originally starred Edward Woodward, finding a hero who lets his actions speak louder than words ever could. Denzel is a tight-lipped badass who knows his way around a home improvement store, but The Equalizer sets out to be something more than another action-centric thriller – an achievement that borders success long enough to hold our attention.
While updating the episodic source material, Fuqua does ensure that a subtle 80s vibe is kept in the sense of McCall’s Terminator-esque attitude. Denzel goes about the role like a tactical militant who fights without emotion, yet softer notes are hit upon by his warm-hearted thoughtfulness when not fighting evil Russian gangsters. McCall tries desperately to assimilate back into society, working as a home improvement store clerk, but his friendly relationship with a young prostitute named Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz) drags him back into chaos when the girl ends up in the hospital after a brutal beating. McCall eliminates all those who hurt Teri, but a sociopathic killer named Teddy (Marton Csokas) is brought in to hunt the angelic mercenary, turning life into a cat-and-mouse chase with danger lurking around every corner.
Much like Jack Reacher or any of these other “unlikely hero” character types, Denzel has to make us believe McCall is a simple everyman with a secret past, which Fuqua accomplishes by using McCall’s eyes as a gateway into his thought process (cranial bullet-time). Other details like a slight case of OCD are underplayed a bit, overshadowed by efforts to paint McCall as just another cashier, but this makes for some pretty exciting outbursts of action.
The Equalizer refuses a path laced with non-stop, blistering action, instead choosing short explosions of McCall’s unmatched strategic skills that stress a minimal usage of his violent talents. Teddy proves to be a formidable foe, and Csokas is another wonderfully cast talent that mirrors Denzel’s own calmly contained monster, as the two square off in a chess game that includes barbed wire, nail guns, and plenty of “messages” being sent. The action may not come in a relentless assault, but how can you NOT love Denzel Washington scooping out a thug’s eye socket with a shot glass?!
As for McCall’s more tender moments, there’s nothing particularly enlightening about the established theme of wanting to help those around him. There’s Ralphie, the hopeful security guard he whips into shape, and Teri, the before-mentioned girl just trying to make a living, but McCall’s moral building doesn’t always come across with strong emotional ties. The Equalizer feels a bit forced when trying to proclaim how great a guy Robert McCall is, despite killing those who deserve it, but the storyboarding is necessary when analyzing McCall’s establishment as a momentary action hero – it just could have been a little less after-school-special-y.
The Blu-Ray transfer is a clean one compared to other mainstream releases such as Tammy‘s lackluster quality, as I can still vividly recall water droplets rolling off of Denzel’s eyelashes in 1080p. The explosions look fiery, action sequences come across with visible energy, and Fuqua’s directorial eye favors a clean transfer that’ll look great on most Hi-Def home setups – with perfectly apt audio accompaniment. Action films need to look the part when winning over audiences, and The Equalizer does its due diligence in having couches rumble as explosions pepper our television screens.
As far as Special Features go, this is what The Equalizer packs in:
- Inside The Equalizer
- Denzel Washington: A Different Kind Of Superhero
- Equalizer Vision: Antoine Fuqua
- Children Of The Night
- One Man Army: Training And Fighting
- Home Mart: Taking Care Of Business One Bolt At A Time
- Photo Gallery
- Vengeance Mode With Denzel Washington & Antoine Fuqua
Everything comes across as standard Special Feature fodder, from a behind-the-scenes glance to interviews with the cast and crew, but I hold “Children Of The Night” above the other puff pieces. If you want to hear about Denzel’s acting prowess you can watch “A Different Kind Of Superhero,” or if you want to know why everyone wanted Fuqua you can watch “Equalizer Vision,” but if you want to hear about how Chloë Grace Moretz met young prostitutes through an organization that helps women in such scenarios, then “Children Of The Night” is worth a look. Moretz is passionate about the cause and her dedication shines through, proving how actors and actresses can be affected by the roles they play, taking away something personal from the experience. There’s plenty more to learn about the production, and “Vengeance Mode” acts as a actor/director’s commentary, but everything else is cut and dry material you’d expect – which is a gold mine if such features are your thing.
The Equalizer is a perfectly serviceable action/thriller in the vein of so many private investigator stories of late, but adrenaline junkies who favor movies such as Crank might feel let down by a screenplay opting for development over depravity. Denzel Washington was cast to bring a bit of prolific grandeur to Robert McCall, delivering another soul-searching role in the form of a “retired” specialist – despite working with quite generic buildup material. When the action kicks in, there’s a grim grittiness to the whole ordeal that’s better than random shootouts and a growing body count, but a trimmed nature finds little excitement until a trap-filled finale. Love it or hate it, The Equalizer delivers exactly as advertised, but more impatient viewers may find themselves itching to hit fast-forward – just curb your expectations coming in and you should be fine!
The Equalizer is everything we've come to expect from a Denzel Washington thriller and nothing more, which isn't a bad thing in the least.