The Equalizer

2014-09-26 13:01
What it's about:

Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) seems like an ordinary blue-collar worker but when a young prostitute (Chloe Grace-Moretz) he befriended is viciously beaten up, his mysterious past comes to the fore as he finds himself up against a ruthless organized crime ring.

What we thought:

Antoine Fuqua is a director who spends his time alternating between grity and quite serious dramas (Training Day, Tears of the Sun) and disposable action movies (Olympus Has Fallen, Shooter) and despite the fact that his last film was the underwhelming shoot-em-up Olympus Has Fallen, it's interesting to see him diving so soon into another glorified b-movie – especially as he has brought along Denzel Washington, the star of his most acclaimed film, along for the ride. 

The Equalizer is apparently based on an '80s TV show (nope, me neither) but its mixture of quite bloody violence and stylized visuals means that it is presumably only tangentially related to its source. What it is, really, is something we've seen about a thousand times before, in everything from its basic story to its almost superhuman “regular Joe” protagonist to most of its action scenes, but is still quite a bit better than it has any right to be.

Part of it, of course, is that Fuqua is a stylish director and he has simply never been more stylish than he is here and that he is smart enough to know that if you're going to make a silly b-movie, you really have to fully commit to it for it to have a chance in hell of working. It's something that hasn't fully been realised in some of his more boring previous films (Olympus Has Fallen, especially) but that commitment to trash is on full display here.

The Equalizer is, in no uncertain terms, an incredibly silly, even stupid film but is one that revels in its own daftness, as it is entirely unapologetic about its pro-vigilantalism message and in its commitment to show its supposedly ordinary protagonist as someone who could easily take down Batman, let alone John McClane. While most action heroes these days barely make it out of their life-threatening situations with all their teeth in tact, Robert McCall can take down swarms of highly trained bad guys, while suffering at most a small cut or two. 

Almost unarguably, the film would collapse under its own preposterousness, not to mention its absurdly bloated running time (b-movies should not be 130 minutes long, under any circumstance) had it not had, at its centre, one of the best leading men in the business. Denzel Wasington is a brilliant actor who is unquestionably slumming it here but his ability to switch between cool charisma and cooler intensity anchors the film and prevents it from flying entirely off the rails.

He is given some nice support by Chloe Grace-Moretz and Marton Csokas (who basically spends the entire movie doing a Kevin Spacey impression with a Russian accent) and respected veterans Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo even show up for a couple of minutes but this is clearly Mr Washington's film all the way. The Equalizer could perhaps have worked with someone Jason Statham in the lead but not without alternating its energy considerably. As it is, while plenty of credit has to go to its director, it's undoubtedly true that without Washington, this is one fairly po-faced b-movie that would have crashed and burned before even getting out of the gate. 

As it is, The Equalizer is a stylish and largely very enjoyable slice of extremely silly trash-cinema that is damaged most by its ludicrous running time (seriously, 130 minutes!) and unfortunate lack of much needed wit in its dialogue. It's easily skippable, basically, but should more than please action junkies who feel that their favourite genre has been under-served of late.

Silly beyond words and lengthy beyond comprehension, The Equalizer is none the less a solidly enjoyable and stylish action romp with a typically great leading-man performance from Denzel Washington at its centre.
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Smurf 2014/09/29 1:21 PM
I think you should stick to reviewing kiddie movies
Guest 2014/09/30 12:54 PM
The Critiqualizer 2014/09/30 2:02 PM
WHAT DID WE THINK THE MOVIE WAS ABOUT? It is about a man (Denzel Washington) in conflict with himself and his past. He is troubled by demons that wear his face. These demons are unleashed, when a Russian mafia ring hurts a young prostitute - a young lady, for whom he starts to care about. WHAT THE MOVIE WAS ABOUT: This version of The Equalizer is a gritty prequel to the 80's series which we did not get here. Think of The Punisher meets A Beautiful Mind, and you have the essence of this movie. A man that is haunted by his past, to the point of insomnia, wreaks havoc on the Russian Mafia, destroying them and trying to redeem himself. Mr Washington has played the tormented hero before (A Man On Fire), and does it equally well here. Chloe Moritz is brilliant as the young prostitute, both tragic and strong at once. She becomes his attachment to his own humanity. When she gets hurt, his eyes open to the violence that is in the world and he seeks to mete out his measure of retribution. His mannerisms that you see in the beginning of the movie, starts to make sense, especially that stop-watch. He is neat and tidy, methodical and to the point. Martin Csokas is the weakest of the trio; however, it is only because my definition of sociopath is a bit extreme, having been jaded by Hannibal and Dexter. He snarls and sneers throughout and pretty much everyone in the movie was scared of him, and audience hated him which is a good thing. If he knocked on my door, I would k@k myself. The movie is violent. It’s not a feel good drama. Robert McCall (Denzel’s character) is not an average Joe. He has a nasty skill set and he is capable. But more than that, he KNOWS he is capable. And you, in the audience, know that in those circumstances, you would be dead, so you appreciate his efforts. And it is a long movie (by today’s critics’ standards), but you want to watch more, you want to see how far McCall would go. Also, the length of the movie allows for McCall’s evolution, something that a 90 minute movie cannot truly fulfil. Antoine Fuqua has again delivered a great movie. You will leave the cinema wanting to watch it again. Yes, plot holes will become apparent after you watch it a few times, but in the end, you would have filed this away in the "Happy" section. It is certainly no “B-Movie”
The Critiqualizer 2014/09/30 2:13 PM
What we think of the Critic: Well, Ilan Preskovsky seems to have went to the movie with his mind already made up. A critic is first an audience member. One should critique a movie on its own merits. Also, whilst the term "B-Movie" is a broad description, it could also encompass many a popular and cult movie. The term should therefore be used with caution. The Equalizer does not fall into a "B-movie" category. You do get paid to give your opinion, Mr Preskovsky. It leaves you with some responsibility. Please do your job well.
Ilan Preskovsky 2014/09/30 7:56 PM
Just to be clear, just because something's a "b-movie" doesn't make it bad. Indeed, length aside, it's as a b-movie that it works best.
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