Director: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Mortez, David Harbour, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo
Written by: Richard Wenk, (based on the television series created by) Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim.
Running Time: 131 mins
Release date: 26th September 2014
There was a television series in the late 80’s, early 90’s that made a star out of Edward Woodward about a man who helped people in situations that they were powerless to escape, a vigilante for free. The programme, cue Stewart Copeland’s theme music, was The Equalizer and this series would often get complaints about its violent content. The contents of that show is nothing compared to the graphic violence that appears in the big screen reboot.
Robert McCall is a quiet man who lives alone, reads books and gives out advice to those who need it. He works in a DIY depot and the rest of his life is a deep, dark secret. Not able to sleep at night, McCall visits an all-night diner where he meets and befriends young prostitute, Teri, who is looking for a way out. One night, she is beaten up so badly, she ends up in hospital. This triggers something in McCall that he has to avenge the man who did it. Little does he know that his actions will see him start a war with the Russian Mafia and especially with a man sent over from Moscow, ex-soldier and heavily tattooed Teddy.
Let’s get this out there right away: The Equalizer is violent. I mean really violent. I mean to the extend that sometimes it’s hard to watch, it’s so graphic and brutal. In its favour though, it sets its stall out and doesn’t steer away from it. It knows this is going to be a tough watch and doesn’t soften. In fact, as the film goes on, it does get worse.
Director Antoine Fuqua has produced a flashy yet confident exploitation film. That’s it. It has the occasional moral but they are not rammed down your throat. This is an all out action thriller with a central character that is mysterious and quietly menacing while at the same time a nice man. The baddies are easily recognisable as they are either tattooed everywhere, wear clunky chains and skulls on their boots or are the Boston Police Force, who seem the most corrupt force in America.
This is a reboot, a re-invention of the show that took an almost forgotten British actor and for a few short years, made him the biggest name on American TV. Although most people will not know who he really was or why he became The Equalizer. This film starts at the beginning and tries to play out the creation of the character, even if character development is hardly on the remit here. We get to know little bits about McCall but nothing past he’s a one-man killing machine who uses his stopwatch to calculate how long it will take to brutally dispose of Russian bad guys.
Thankfully having Denzel Washington as McCall, it does have a saving grace among the carnage. Washington is one of those actors who doesn’t appear to do much and yet delivers a vast amount. A simple, cold stare at the camera and you immediately can see every thought, past and present. Having another actor in the role and the film may not be as watchable but he gives it an air of class and style and much more emotional depth than you would ever have thought in such a movie.
The film does bound along, going from one graphic set piece to another, heading towards the obvious finale in the place of work for McCall, where he can use a vast array of tools and equipment to take out the villains, where nothing is left to the imagination. At 131 minutes, it’s far too long for this kind of nonsense and you do think that it could have been just as effective at 90 minutes. Having said that, it does pack it all in and while everything is neatly package for a possible series of films in the future, it might consider including some baddies who are not just quietly spoken, tattooed thugs but more interesting than that.
The Equalizer is a bit of a tough ride and if you don’t like watching cork screws going into people’s chins so you can see it inside their mouths, or are disgusted by watching a man hanging with barred wire than maybe this isn’t for you. Not the greatest action film ever but Washington oozes charisma enough to put it into the category of better than it deserves to be.