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The Equalizer - Movie Review

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The Equalizer - Movie Review

4 stars

If you missed the original The Equalizer television series upon which Denzel Washington’s latest actioner is based (and named), you’re not alone. The show, which ran on CBS for just a few short years back in the ‘80s, is mostly long forgotten and hasn’t even sparked a resurrecting interest from Netflix. The show starred Edward Woodward as a retired intelligence agent turned private detective who is called in by his clients when the odds against them need equalizing. Not that you even need to know any of this but it does help demonstrate the desperate depths Hollywood is now exploring for source material.

You’ll learn more about the Robert McCall (Washington) character from the aforementioned TV show’s brief synopsis than will ever be revealed in director Antoine Fuqua’s 120-minute film. And that’s part of its appeal. Fuqua and screenwriter Richard Wenk make McCall a man of mystery, the layers of his individualism to be slowly revealed in bits and pieces not only within this film, but into the future franchise installments that are sure to come. Though a bold decision to slight character complexity in the short term, Fuqua and company figured they had enough good stuff going on that audiences would forgive their lack of full character development for the sake of the long term. They were right.

When we meet McCall, he’s wearing an apron as a content employee at the local big box home improvement store. Think Home Depot and envision all the big, sharp power tools and dangerous implements available there. That vision will come in handy later. Rigorous to his job duties and courteous to his fellow employees, there’s something in McCall’s eyes and actions that suggests he’s not who we think he is. He displays touches of OCD with frequent time checks and adjustments to objects to keep them in perfect alignment.

But it’s his befriending of a young prostitute (Chloë Grace Moretz) that makes us realize that McCall is driven by an innate sense of justice… and that he’s handily equipped with the hidden skills that allow him to serve vengeance against anyone who would brutalize the innocent.

When he discovers the prostitute has become the punching bag of a local Russian gangster involved in the city’s crime world, McCall’s kind gesture to buy her out from under their hand turns into an act of war against the Russian underground. A war led by a very bad fellow named Teddy (Marton Csokas) who was sent from the Motherland to clean up all the trouble the Russians have now found themselves in. But Teddy has apparently never met someone like McCall, and thankfully for us, neither man will be satisfied with just walking away while everyone is still alive.

Fuqua’s story becomes a deliciously horrific battle of good vs. evil that starts out at a very high pitch from the opening scenes and only escalates from there. The result is a very bloody game of cat-and mouse as the Russians send in a seemingly endless supply of “fixers” who are always one step behind the cool, calculating McCall.

What makes Washington’s character so intriguing is the actor’s willingness to play it cool, watching and observing his surroundings before entering the fray. He surveys the room, envisioning everyday household items as weapons before whipping into a frenzy of ass-kicking and name-taking. Letter openers aren’t used to open letters, nor are corkscrews used to uncork bottles of the finest. While a climactic battle that takes place on McCall’s turf inside the home improvement store approaches Home Alone territory with its numerous traps and setups, rest assured that The Equalizer will go nowhere near Christmas-time fare and will instead take full advantage of its R rating.

The Equalizer will rightfully never be mistaken for anything but pure popcorn action, but in today’s world where it seems more and more difficult to find someone willing to stand up against all the bad things in the world, it’s nice to imagine there are random good guys out there like McCall willing to fight for what’s right. It’s also very entertaining to have a filmmaker like Fuqua teach us all the new fun and fascinating things we can do with the endless supply of sharp tools at Home Depot.

The Equalizer - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: Marton CsokasR for strong bloody violence and language throughout, including some sexual references
131 mins
: Antoine Fuqua
Richard Wenk
Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz
: Action | Thriller
What do you see when you look at me?
Memorable Movie Quote: "It's about a guy who is a knight in shining armor, except he lives in a world where knights don't exist anymore."
Columbia Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
September 26, 2014
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available
Synopsis: A former black ops commando who faked his death for a quiet life in Boston comes out of his retirement to rescue a young girl and finds himself face to face with Russian gangsters.

No details available.

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