The Equalizer

  • Movie Review
  • Friday, 26 Sep 2014

Strongarm tactic: ‘And now, watch me give new meaning to the term backshooter.’

Starring : Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz, David Harbour, David Meunier, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, Johnny Skourtis

Director : Antoine Fuqua

Release Date : 25 Sep 2014

This violent vigilante flick breaks all the right bones, but takes itself a bit too seriously.

THIS dark, violent thriller is apparently based on the fondly-remembered 1980s TV series which starred Edward Woodward as Robert McCall. He was a retired intelligence operative who helped innocents in trouble – possibly to make amends for his past sins.

“Odds against you? Need help?” went the newspaper ad through which he offered his services to the desperate.

I say “apparently” because, aside from the character’s name and implied background, there is not much that ties the series to this movie.

No Jaguar. No cool ballistic knife. No posse of helpers. No helpful “Control” for him to liaise with.

And most sorely missed of all (aside from the late Woodward), that iconic theme by Stewart Copeland.

I mean, would it have killed the folks behind this movie to throw a bone to fans of the show? Rights tied up? Did composer Stewart Copeland have some objection to the remake?

Whatever the reason, Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua’s take on The Equalizer comes to us relatively free of cues, visual or aural, that will strike a chord in our memories.

Given the generally grim tone of this movie, I suppose such sentimental ties would not have been appropriate.

If you ask me, I just think they took the material too seriously.

A stone cold killer, living an anonymous life to escape all the horrible things he did before (whatever they are), anonymously coming to the rescue of defenceless teen prostitutes and protection racket victims to set an unjust world to rights, while working in an anonymous job at Home Depot?

And who is a tad obsessive-compulsive? Come on, it’s a fantasy, for crying out loud.

This Robert McCall hangs out a lot at a 24-hour diner because he can’t sleep at night.

There, he frequently makes small talk with teen prostitute Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz).

One day, she gets savagely beaten by her pimp, and after he fails to buy her freedom, McCall kills the guy and his goons with ruthless efficiency.

Strongarm tactic: ‘And now, watch me give new meaning to the term backshooter.’

Which brings more trouble his way, because his victims are part of a huge Russian crime syndicate, and their boss sends an equally ruthlessly efficient killer named Teddy (Marton Csokas) to sort things out.

Teddy is such a bad@$$ that he kills people for lying to him, he kills people for failing him, he kills rival mobsters to send a message, and he probably even killed his tattoo artist after the job just so no one else could have such bad@$$ tats.

Of course, Teddy only thinks he’s after McCall, who’s really hunting him.

And who also has time to address other issues in the neighbourhood: helping colleague Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis) get in shape so he can apply for a job as a security guard; stepping in when crooked cops shake down shopowners for protection money; and generally being the kind of secret guardian angel that many of us wish was really out there, cleaning things up.

For the most part, The Equalizer punches all the right buttons and breaks all the right bones for a vigilante flick of its ilk.

There are some pretty darn cool moments, though I figure at least two scenes of McCall’s “interactions” with the mob could have been taken out to greatly improve the pacing.

But that might have interfered with the intention to make this The Godfather of vigilante movies.

Thank goodness then for the always watchable Washington to carry us through the times when the action starts to get a bit repetitive.

For a guy whose character is the nexus of the violence in the film, Washington is also its tranquil centre, a man keen on escaping his past yet who seems wistful too – “A knight in shining armour ... except he lives in a world where knights don’t exist anymore.”

He’s like both the hurricane (heh) and the eye of the hurricane at once.

So, to amend my earlier statement, the icy calm and volatility of Robert McCall is the one thing – maybe the most important – that does successfully connect the two incarnations of the character.

I’m still on the fence about whether or not the OCD aspect adds anything significant, but I generally liked this Equalizer and wouldn’t mind a return visit to the neighbourhood.

Just, guys, lighten up a little next time. And bring the music.

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The Equalizer


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