Review: “The Equalizer”

It seems that in between doing serious dramatic roles—Like “Flight” and “American Gangster”—Denzel Washington just really likes hitting people. His actioniers like “Man on Fire” and “Safe House” drive audiences crazy with blood-fueled glee, and “The Equalizer” will probably do the same.

Based on the hit television show from the 80’s, this re-envisioning tells the story of a retired CIA named Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) who spends his days working at a Home Depot-esque warehouse store where he is a beloved employee who helps his chubby coworkers live healthily.

But at night, he spends his time reading in coffee shops due to, staring thoughtfully out windows and having conversations with a young prostitute, Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz). He never seems to sleep and lives solely on assorted teas.

The movie works like a quiet drama up until this point, until Teri is hurt by Russian pimps and has to go turbo. Fuqua seems to be taking things slower after last year’s brazenly stupid “Olympus Has Fallen”, and it works quite well here. The scenes are directly with a shady ambiance and are given an engaging curiosity by Washington.

He gives McCall a quiet cool that drives his wise charm that makes him such an entertaining role to watch. Washington is such a good actor he is able to believably switch the on and off switch between loveable and unsympathetic vigilante with the slightest nuance. He doesn’t go from charming to Hulk-out in the span of nothing.

Even when he finally starts bashing skulls with the same expert precision he lives the rest of his life by (symbolized by his second appendage­­—a digital watch), there still seems to be a more complex idea of showing man who can’t turn himself off once he starts.

He exacts revenge on the pimps who beat Teri, then helps a friend who’s being harassed by the cops, and then acts again when a crook robs his store. It calls to mind that old “Godfather” line, “Leave the gun, take the Cannoli.” Wait, that’s not it.

Though the tone is episodic and seemingly aimless, there’s a refreshing dramatic underscore to it all. That is until the mob gets involved and it devolves into yet another “Uh oh, who’s that in the tinted Escalade?” movie.

This Mafioso hunting McCall down is also an ex operative, but instead he is scary and Russian with a bunch of demonic tattoos. They even want you to know about all his scary tattoos by showing this guy stretching over a chair like Demi Moore as the camera glides over his half-naked body. If you’re easily turned on by silly Russian mob porn, you’re in luck.

All this of course leads into an epic showdown in the warehouse store where someone McCall was able to quickly set up all these gruesome traps­ (like where one guy trips a wire that causes him to be hung by the neck with barbed wire) without anyone noticing, concluding with the villain being defeated in the rain, or in this case rain-like sprinklers. Oh, and don’t forget all the cool slo-mo explosions.

I can’t totally complain. The first half is quite admirable in style and tone, and even when it succumbs to every cliché in the known universe Denzel is still there to give it some class. I guess it’s not too bad I sort of enjoyed myself, because based off the final scene of McCall answering an ad for badass super-spy help on Craigslist we will probably see more of him. Just leave the slo-mo at home next time, okay?

Grade: B-

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