“You gotta be who you are in this world.”
There’s something about old men that are still able to kick ass that is just awesome. Instead of leaving their condominiums to go hit the links, they’re vigilantes out using their skills for the greater good. Sadly, that’s not the case with The Equalizer. Robert McCall, effortlessly played by Denzel Washington, is a cold-blooded killer. What does it say about the protagonist if he is so easily willing and prepared to go to extreme lengths, even risk his life, to right even the simplest of wrongs? How this scored the highest test screening in Sony’s history is beyond me. Washington, not his character McCall, is the real equalizer. Take him away and you’re left with nothing.
McCall lives in solitude. A widower after his wife’s recent passing, he spends his days working at Home Mart and making his way through a list of the 100 books to read before you die. At night he reads in a diner like something out of Edward Hopper’s famous Nighthawks painting and does small talk with Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz). Forced into prostitution at a young age, she eeks her way through life not knowing how to better her own circumstances. Later on she’s hospitalized after being beaten by her pimp. That alone is enough to force McMcall to break the vow he made with his deceased wife that he wouldn’t return to his old life. How could he not? I mean, he is the equalizer after all.
Washington wowed me in this movie. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another actor, save for the silent era, capable of expressing so much emotion by literally doing nothing. He can stare at another character and you feel the anger, the disgust, the sheer amount of hate he has building up inside. The rest of the cast never gets that kind of moment because of the cliche script. Teddy (Martin Csokas) fills the unhinged and tattooed Russian mobster role, and he is absolutely menacing, but we’ve seen it all before. Chloe Grace Moretz looks like a young Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver, but her character never has the “aha” moment that she deserves. She appears, leaves the film entirely, and then resurfaces in the last 5 minutes. Moretz is downright charming and the movie could have used more of her.
I’d never guess this was made by the same man who directed Training Day. Antoine Fuqua has some really great shot choices, but this just isn’t successful as a straight action film. Some sequences with Washington fighting in close quarters are really well done while entire chunks feel like pointless exposition. I hate, and I mean absolutely detest, when films set pivotal scenes in nearly complete darkness. This movie’s climax is almost indiscernible. It felt like watching a pair of nervous kids blindly going in for their first kiss and fumbling the long awaited buildup. You can’t hit the home run with your eyes closed.
Man on Fire might be my favorite Denzel film. Granted Tony Scott’s direction makes it a little off-putting, but it’s just such a damn good role for the veteran actor. In Man on Fire, Washington’s character Joyhn Creasy kills countless men to save a girl he loves. A little girl he has cared for and nurtured. One he has coached at swim meets and has earned the title of her beloved teddy bear. Creasy has rightful motivation while McCall does not. In The Equalizer, McCall sets out on a path of complete destruction to avenge Teri’s beating not because he needs to, but because he wants to. Sure, it’s passable entertainment. It’s also the most let down I’ve been by a movie so far this year.
“I am offering you a chance to do the right thing. Take it.”
Rating: 2.5 out of 5