The Equalizer: Go, But Don’t Expect Too Much
by Sam Brigham on Friday, October 17th, 2014
The problem with Antoine Fuqua’s newest action thriller, The Equalizer, is that the trailer shows it all. In four minutes you can see the entire movie and save gas money, $12 of tickets, and three hours of your life. If you actually watch it, like I did, you will watch Denzel Washington give epic lines and fight Russian gangsters while Eminem’s new single, “Guts over Fear” plays in the background. The movie’s overall impression parallels my opinion of “Guts over Fear” itself; while it had no major faults and held my enthusiastic attention for its duration, it didn’t quite meet my cosmically lofty expectations. Even so, The Equalizer delivers an entertaining flick for fans of the genre.
The story goes something like this: Denzel Washington plays Bob McCall, a former black-ops commando who faked his death to live a more normal life in Boston. He soon instigates a fight with the Russian Mafia after he sees them abusing Alina (Chloe Grace Moretz), a young Russian girl forced into prostitution, whom he knows from habitual visits to a particular diner. After setting things right for her, McCall gets involved in a far bigger battle with the leaders of the whole operation and their lethal errand boy, Teddy (Martin Csokas), who is sent to kill him. McCall has to dig deep to take down such a formidable foe.
The setting of Boston worked perfectly for the movie, being a spirited city which can also reveal a dark underbelly of crime and corruption. With much of the film taking place at night, this subtle criminality is highlighted. Shots of secret meetings under sketchy overpasses and side-scrolling shots of the Boston skyline at twilight illuminate the evil present in the city, of which Washington’s character sees the worst. Washington himself, undoubtedly the major draw of the film for many viewers, fits into his character well. He flawlessly portrays an avenger of the exploited with his merciless and authoritative air, while remaining compassionate and righteous. Csokas’ intimidating manner and cruel smile make him a captivating villain (the New Zealander’s excellently-faked Russian accent also helps). Chloe Grace Moretz, who in fact took the part after being inspired to desexualize the idea of those facing her character’s situation in real life, plays her disturbing role quite well but does not have much screen time. Her character could have evolved more richly over the course of the story.
Supporting actor performances are mostly unremarkable, an exception being Johnny Skourtis’ character, Ralph, an overweight, store worker-turned-security guard who undergoes a somewhat clichéd character development that still satisfies the audience.
Action in The Equalizer is by no means boring. Washington’s character finds the most absurd and creatively violent ways to dispatch his enemies using an unrealistically comprehensive analysis of how he can utilize his surroundings. The excellent camera work of director Antoine Fuqua truly complements Washington’s intensity. However, going to the theater in search of unrelenting excitement brought on by the legend Denzel Washington himself, I found the action sequences to be somewhat limited. During much of the movie, I felt the writers wanted to keep the audience on the edge of their seats by holding off on the action when a fight would have been plausible, thus building viewers’ anticipation for the eventual conflict. There were, to my dismay, only a couple instances of classic Denzel Washington action; though these scenes did not disappoint in terms of quality, the movie could have benefitted from more.
For anyone intrigued by the epic trailer, I recommend The Equalizer, an entertaining ride through crime and vengeance that avoids clichés when possible. Having expectations lower than my own, the standard viewer will undoubtedly enjoy Denzel Washington—one of the most entertaining and dynamic actors of our time—and the ways in which he confronts the dark forces surrounding him.
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