Friday, September 26, 2014

The Equalizer Movie Review

Denzel Washington is The Equalizer

A Man with No Equal

* Note: The Equalizer was one of my favorite TV shows of the 20th Century; and Denzel Washington is my favorite actor (perhaps of all-time.) Hmm, I "wonder" if I'm going to like The Equalizer...

With an introduction like that (and my proven affinity for this genre) it doesn't take a genius to figure out where this review is headed. That said, it's hard to ignore a sense of déjà vu (pun intended) throughout Antoine Fuqua's The Equalizer. Even a huge fan like myself can't overlook the fact that Denzel has played this role before; but nobody does it better than Denzel, especially when "it" requires unrivaled cool, gobs of violence and a certain humility that few actors convey half as well as the two-time Oscar winner. Taking on the role of Robert McCall (played so brilliantly on the small screen by Edward Woodward) is no easy task; yet Denzel glides through the film's fast-moving 131 minutes, taking just enough time to dispense fatherly/sage advice (in between ass-whoopings of the highest order.)

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: In The Equalizer, Denzel Washington plays McCall, a man who believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when McCall meets Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can't stand idly by - he has to help her. Armed with hidden skills that allow him to serve vengeance against anyone who would brutalize the helpless, McCall comes out of his self-imposed retirement and finds his desire for justice reawakened. If someone has a problem, if the odds are stacked against them, if they have nowhere else to turn, McCall will help. He is The Equalizer.

What’s Best: Denzel. I heap praise upon him to a fault; but his track record speaks for itself. In The Equalizer, he plays a soft-spoken Superman of sorts. In addition to taking the time and effort to clean his sneakers with a toothbrush, he times his beat-downs/gunfights to the millisecond. A year shy of 60, he doesn't try the impossible... no useless running back & forth, etc. What's the hurry anyhow, especially when you know he's gonna clean house eventually. Adding to the fun, Marton Csokas delights as evil Teddy, a formidable bad guy that appears to act and think like McCall. Every superhero needs a great villain; and Csokas provides that, and then some.

What’s Not: Let's talk about slo-mo walkaways for a minute. Time after time (after time) directors feel the need to blow something up, then have their star walk away (cool as a cucumber) oblivious to the carnage in his midst. Poor Denzel has had to do it more than once before (Man on Fire leaps to mind) and Fuqua saddles him with more of the same here... in addition to a Matrix Revolutions-like grand finale in the rain (only with fire sprinklers instead.) The fact that he does all his damage with "Home Depot Mart" equipment makes it all the more laughable.

Best Line: There's no better on-screen storyteller than Denzel, who still thinks enough of his audience to warn, 'Stop me, if you've heard this one before.' Truth is, Denzel's characters are never boring, especially when armed with lines like, 'I hit it on something stupid,' and 'Please accept these parting gifts on behalf of Mr. Pushkin.' The former explains a minor hand injury; while the latter accompanies stacks of cash given away by McCall in between shootouts.

Overall: Slo-mo blunders aside, Fuqua takes full advantage of a glorious IMAX canvas, treating us to a spectacular series of lightning-quick battles that manage to sound as good they look. I love the story (with the possible exception of a 17-year-old Moretz portraying a prostitute) and Denzel... well, I think we've covered his contributions sufficiently. Fuqua infuses a lot more violence than was featured on the TV show; but he deserves credit for keeping the carnage in relative check. Moments of levity ('190, my ass!') provide brief (but welcome) respite from The Equalizer's inevitable path of destruction; and the end result is nothing short of awesome.