THE EQUALIZER
Author: J.A. Hyde
September 25, 2014

SYNOPSIS: In The Equalizer, Denzel Washington plays McCall, a man who believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when McCall meets Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can't stand idly by - he has to help her. Armed with hidden skills that allow him to serve vengeance against anyone who would brutalize the helpless, McCall comes out of his self-imposed retirement and finds his desire for justice reawakened. If someone has a problem, if the odds are stacked against them, if they have nowhere else to turn, McCall will help. He is The Equalizer.

Denzel!

He’s the MAN!

Director Antoine Fuqua chose his lead actor well for The Equalizer, his film based very loosely on the mid-80s television series of the same name. The main character, Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) shares only his name and a mysterious past with the television version’s star, the late British actor Edward Woodward. Woodward’s McCall was a stylishly-dressed, Jaguar-driving, smooth operator. Washington’s McCall lives simply, uses public transportation, and works at a big-box supply store, Home Mart.

The film is set mainly in Boston, and all filming locations were in Massachusetts. After an agonizingly slow start, the action begins when McCall, who suffers from insomnia and spends late nights reading at a 24-hour diner, becomes acquainted with a young prostitute, Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), and tries to help her see a better potential life. He’s done the same thing with one of his co-workers at Home Mart. He’s taken a young man who wants to be a security guard, Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis), under his wing. He quietly encourages both with his mantra “progress, not perfection”. His closest relationships are with his co-workers at Home Mart even though he’s largely a mystery to them. They’re always trying to guess what he did “before.”

The long exposition in the beginning of the film was probably supposed to give the audience a status quo to contrast with the intense action of the rest of the film. McCall is compulsively neat and obsessively thorough in all tasks, personal or work-related. Unfortunately, it just makes viewers antsy and wondering if anything is actually going to happen.

The real story begins when McCall notices that Teri is being brutalized by her Russian mob-connected pimp, Slavi (David Meunier). For standing up to him, she ends up in ICU, and McCall, who’s tried to leave his past behind him, is driven to act on her behalf. It won’t take you long to realize that McCall’s past involved black-ops style military training. He visits Slavi and his henchmen and offers them a choice. Leave Teri alone or pay a price. Of course, they choose poorly, and the resulting mayhem brings down the full force of the Russian mob on McCall.

Denzel Washington does his usual fine job of giving layers to a character that could have easily been a caricature, allowing the audience to see the human being beneath the enigmatic exterior. Chloe Grace Moretz also shines as Teri, showing a maturity well-beyond her years. Although it’s hard to see Kick Ass’s Hit Girl as a victim, she gives a convincing performance. As always, a film like this one only succeeds if the villain affects the audience enough to make them want to see him defeated. Marton Csokas, not well-known to American audiences, gets an A+ for making us yearn to see him taken down.

Of course, the fight sequences are well beyond the abilities of any human being, but you want them to be. The story isn’t about reality – it’s about entertainment. That being said, the film is extremely violent, and there are copious amounts of blood. If that’s a problem for you, you should skip it. However, other than its slow start, it’s a top-tier action film. Given Denzel Washington’s skill and popularity as an actor, if The Equalizer does well at the box office, we’re most likely looking at the beginning of a franchise. - JoAnne Hyde

GRADE: B


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