“It’s a familiar scenario and we all know how it’s going to end… “
by Matt Allen
Cast: Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz, Marton Csokas)
Director(s): Antoine Fuqua
Screenwriter(s): Richard Wenk
Running Time: 131 mins
After 13 years, the actor/director partnership that brought us the unforgettable Training Day reunites for the cinematic adaptation of the iconic 1980’s TV series The Equalizer. And yes, we will be holding that spelling against them…
An unassuming hardware store employee Robert McCall(Washington) goes full Rambo when he comes to the aid of an under-age hooker (Moretz).
The premise is fairly generic, there is no denying that. Washington is the quiet neat freak who keeps himself to himself but is also loved by the community of his disadvantaged and often dangerous neighbourhood. It is clear early on from his quirky compulsion to time everything he does – including tying his shoe laces – that he is not what he seems. It’s a familiar scenario and we all know how it’s going to end…
In fact, it is this impeccable timing that proves to be his greatest weapon as, after his dining buddy (a streetwalker who looks to be up way past her bedtime) is hospitalised by her abusive Russian pimp. When the punches start flying, McCall is able to anticipate attacks and take down multiple enemies in a faction of a second – a super convenient ability since everything is extra dramatic when shot in slo-mo.
But Moretz vanishes fairly early on once her purpose as human McGuffin is served and the film becomes more about the face-off between McCall and Russian mob ‘fixer’ Teddy (Csokas). Both meticulous in their approach to taking the other down, the two enter into an extreme game of one-upmanship; McCall by shutting down various mob operations and Teddy by targeting the few people in McCall’s life that connect him to the world.
The scenes between these two unflinching killers are the most enjoyable. The tension behind each word uttered is thinly veiled, particularly in their first meeting when Teddy, posing as a police officer, sizes McCall up. Naturally, McCall is having none of it and, with a wry smile, lets it be known that he is wise to the game.
Most of the action is typically run-of-the-mill with the occasionally note-worthy flare (personally I never get tired of seeing a man have is gun snatched from him, flipped over and pressed against his nose in one smooth action) but the intimidation techniques are quite fresh and deployed masterfully by Washington.
As well as the main plot, there are a couple of brief side stories thrown into the mix to give a wider scope to the film and demonstrate McCall’s metamorphosis into The Equalizer proper. These actually make sense to the progression of the character and manage to avoid weigh down the pace of the primary storyline. All of which leads to the inevitable set up for future adventures suggesting the opportunity for Fuqua to take a stab at his first franchise series.
Not a touch on Training Day but that is hardly surprising. While this one has very little to make it stand out from other films of its ilk, it serves its purpose; a good example of its genre.