The Equalizer





Directed By: Antoine Fuqua

Starring: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Bill Pullman, and Melissa Leo

Television and cinema are inextricably bound to one another.  As such, there are numerous examples in which stories are brought to life across the two media.  Some success on the big screen can foreshadow future success on the smaller one.  Take the Marvel Cinematic Universe for instance.  The success of The Avengers has created a home for its follow-ups Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter on ABC.  There's a flip side to this coin, however, in which success on the small screen can translate to success on the big screen.  Just look to the success of this summer's 22 Jump Street.  Though I gave the film a mixed review, its box office gold doesn't lie and only perpetuates Johnny Depp's legacy as Officer Tom Hanson.  All in all, it's clear as day that television and cinema are riding buddies.  With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that the 80's show The Equalizer has found a home on the big screen.  The only surprise is its star, screen legend Denzel Washington.

Robert McCall (Washington) is no ordinary man though he certainly lives an ordinarily life.  He works at a local Home Mart store and helps his colleague Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis) to lose weight to qualify for a job opening in security at the store.  He eats at a nearby diner where he converses with a young prostitute named Teri/Alina (Chloë Grace Moretz) on a nightly basis about The Old Man and the Sea.  He reads quite a bit and is working his way through a list of 100 books to read before you die.  This simple life Robert lives is not the real Robert though.  He has a dark past and has done some bad things.  As far as he's concerned, he's put his past behind him.  However, the winds of justice can change quickly, and Robert is not the type to sit idly by.

Like virtually all women in her position, Teri is a prostitute out of necessity, not choice.  Despite her hard life, she has a fire in her and won't take abuse from her customers.  When one customer hits her, Teri hits back.  The Russian gangsters who pimp her out to customers have a problem with this and take it out on Teri, putting her in the ICU.  When he learns of all that has transpired, Robert can't stand on the sidelines either.  A former covert operations officer in "The Agency", he puts a particular set of skills to use and pays a visit to the Russians who put Teri in the hospital.  The situation escalates, and Robert ends up killing the Russians, causing mob boss Pushkin (Vladimir Kulich) to send in a specialist to clean up the situation.  Arriving in the city with the sole purpose of finding the person who carried out the brutal murders of his fellow Russians, Teddy (Marton Csokas) begins to terrorize the city, including cops on Pushkin's payroll like Masters (David Harbour).

Offering a highly stylized film featuring many of his artistic trademarks, director Antoine Fuqua avoids many of the obvious pitfalls in bringing the 80's show The Equalizer back to life.  He avoids moves that could easily be perceived as cheesy or inauthentic and primarily relies on the smoothness of his star Denzel Washington.  Though Fuqua tries to create this slick, edgy world, the defining attribute of his interpretation of The Equalizer is a quiet intensity that occasionally boils over and manifests itself in some rather enjoyable brutality.  All in all, The Equalizer is one entertaining thriller.  Though it's not Oscar bait or a high-brow crime flick bound for critical acclaim, it's a good action thriller featuring one cool movie star in Washington.

Though he made his big screen debut some 40 years ago, two time Academy Award winner Denzel Washington remains a force in Hollywood.  He just doesn't challenge himself enough.  Though he gave an Oscar-worthy performance in Flight some two years ago, he's continued this unfortunate trend of wasting his talent in action movies like Safe House and 2 Guns.  While The Equalizer s a few notches above those two films, it's still not Washington tackling the types of roles worthy of an actor of his caliber.  For his part as Robert McCall in The Equalizer, Washington is one smooth dude.  A silent menace, he's got the walk and talk of a true badass.  Offering plenty of great one-liners and looks that could kill, he has the presence of an unspoken hero.  Moreover, Washington once again finds his comfort zone with Robert McCall, and it shows in the final product.

While Washington has made both exceptional and mediocre thrillers over the years, The Equalizer doesn't quite land in either bucket.  Still, it's much closer to exceptionalism than mediocrity.  This collaboration with Antoine Fuqua adds yet another solidly entertaining thriller to his long filmography.  The Equalizer gets a strong 0.06% rating.  Have a few rounds of Pinot Grigio with this one.