Denzel Washington is a man of many talents. He can carry dramatic, slower films like The Great Debaters, Remember the Titans, and Flight, and he can also kill it with roles in action movies like Training Day and Man on Fire. In any case, he’s one of the most watchable screen presences in movies today, and that is what makes The Equalizer succeed for the most part. Washington and Training Day director Antoine Fuqua (he also directed Olympus Has Fallen) reunite to bring this adaptation of the 1980’s CBS television series to the big screen, and if the film follows the series well, I can tell you with certainty that the movie wins in the brutality department.
Denzel plays Robert McCall, a retired badass who has a particular set of skills. Unlike Bryan Mills in Taken, we aren’t totally convinced of where these skills come from, but we learn that he has them. This mystery man works at Home Mart (think Home Depot), doing a fine job living out a normal, unnoticeable existence. But we learn that this man isn’t just a normal man. He uses his skills to help those in need. He’s a vigilante. Que the dramatic mood music. Cheesy as it may sound, with Washington on screen, it’s nowhere close. Once he establishes his skills for the audience to see, a bloodbath ensues that’ll knock you out cold if you aren’t prepared.
I’ve heard some people compare this movie to Drive due to the violent content and the fact that Nicolas Winding Refn was once considered to direct. It isn’t a surprise and upon considering that, it makes much sense. The movie is quiet for a while during the first act with McCall being established as a silent protagonist who just wants to read at his local diner and mind his own business. Then a prostitute (Chloe Grace Moretz) arrives to shake everything up for McCall as his defensive nature tells him he must help her in her situation. I love Chloe Grace Moretz and I think she is a wonderful young actress, but I think she is out of place in this film. Her performance wasn’t all that good, but the script has her in the movie only for the purpose of initiating Washington into this world to wreak havoc in the best way possible. Nothing against Moretz, but she just didn’t do it for me in this one.
Flaws aside, the movie is pretty awesome. Washington’s McCall deducts the time span it will take to complete a fight in the fashion Sherlock Holmes considers crime scenes. His character reminded me a lot of Sherlock as well as Will Graham from Hannibal. There isn’t an abundance of violent scenes (at least until the final twenty minutes or so which is completely awesome and satisfying), but when the violence hits, it hits hard. Think Drive. It’s shockingly brutal. But if you can take it, and you love Denzel, you’ll have a great time.
Rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, including some sexual references)
Starring Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz
Written by Richard Wenk
Directed by Antoine Fuqua