Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Stars: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Johnny Skourtis, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, Haley Bennett, David Meunier.
The Equalizer, which ran from 1985-1989 , gave the late Edward Woodward a second hit tv series to follow the bleak, downbeat British spy series Callan. In the tv show Woodward played Robert McCall, a former intelligence agent who drew upon his unique skill set to help people who couldn’t find justice through the usual channels. But fans of the original series may be appalled at what the producers have done with the concept for this big budget feature film adaptation which serves up an origins story. But as written by Richard Wenk (the remake of The Mechanic, etc) the big screen version of The Equalizer is basically just another generic, but nasty and violent action film with a high body count.
Denzel Washington steps into the role here, replacing Russell Crowe who was the original choice to play McCall. When we first meet McCall he seems to be the unassuming, generous and soft spoken manager of a massive Bunnings style home improvement warehouse in Boston. We know he’s a good guy because he is helping the overweight Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis) get fit and lose weight so he can pass the physical test to become a security guard at the store.
But he lives in a spartan apartment that has little in the way of furnishing. He prefers to travel by public transport. And he also has a routine at night. Unable to sleep he wanders down to the local 24-hour diner, where he sits at the same table and reads through the 101 books you must read before you die. One night he strikes up a conversation with Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), who turns out to be a high class teenaged call girl working for some very nasty Russians. When Teri ends up in the hospital brutally beaten, McCall’s sense of justice kicks in and he decides to step in and help out.
He initially offers to buy Teri’s contract, but when his offer is rebuffed, the meeting ends in violence. McCall brutally kills her pimps. Bad mistake. They are connected to the Russian mob. Before long the heavily tattooed Teddy (Marton Csokas), a former soldier and now a brutal, ruthlessly efficient and sinister enforcer for the Russian mob, arrives in town to clean up the mess and take care of McCall.
Not the sort to back away from a fight though, McCall takes the fight to the Russians, systematically taking down some corrupt cops in their employ and destroying their operations. All of which leads to a tense, bloody climactic showdown in the hardware warehouse, where McCall’s convenient weapons of choice include power drills and nail guns.
Washington turns McCall into a lean, mean killing machine here in a film that resembles a slick variation on the violent vigilante dramas populated by the likes of Steven Seagal or Charles Bronson, or even the Taken series starring Liam Neeson as the newly minted action hero. Washington normally brings authority, gravitas, dignity and a powerful presence to his roles, but director Antoine Fuqua, who cast him against type and directed him to an Oscar in the gritty drama Training Day, seems to be able to tap into the darker side of his screen persona. It’s a role that doesn’t give Washington a lot to do performance wise, but he certainly has the physical presence to carry off the part.
Melissa Leo (who guest starred in a tv movie length episode of The Equalizer) and Bill Pullman are given little to do in their brief roles as former CIA colleagues McCall turns to for advice. Csokas brings a malevolent quality to his role as the psychopathic Russian enforcer, but while his sadistic villain of the piece is little more than a cliched, one- dimensional character he makes for a formidable opponent. Moretz brings both a touching vulnerability and resilience to her small and underwritten role.
This is a serviceable enough run of the mill formulaic action film that offers up nothing that we haven’t seen before. Although it sets itself up for the obligatory sequel, The Equalizer is probably another of those potential franchises that will not get off the ground.