I go back to the day, in the middle late 80’s when The Equalizer was a TV series. The show starred Edward Woodward, a British actor, as Robert McCall who was (I’m quoting from IMDB) – A retired intelligence agent turned private detective helps various threatened clients to equalize the odds.
Now, in 2014, we have a new film called The Equalizer. With Denzel Washington playing the same role, Robert McCall. Sony Pictures describes the film as: McCall comes out of his self-imposed retirement and finds his desire for justice reawakened. If someone has a problem, if the odds are stacked against them, if they have nowhere else to turn, McCall will help. He is The Equalizer.
Basically, a TV Series that was successful and ran from 1985 to 1989, encompassing 4 seasons of 22 episodes each, has been whittled down to a single film of 132 minutes. Directed by Antoine Fuqua who has 20 Director credits going back to 2001’s Training Day, for which Denzel won an Oscar as Best Actor, and 1998’s The Replacement Killers, which starred Chow Yun-Fat, this film is long on action – but short on both character development and character details.
The screenwriter Richard Wenk, also wrote The Expendables 2 and The Mechanic, also has Director and Producer credits – so we can call him a seasoned veteran.
Denzel Washington does not need a recapping of his actor credits as he has been an international star for a long time. He slides right into the role of Robert McCall, and when we meet him, he’s working in a big box store similar to Lowes and Home Depot. We know nothing about him, except that he lives alone, doesn’t require a lot of sleep, he reads the classics, and he makes it his business to visit a local all-night diner regularly.
One night, in the diner, he gets to talking to a young woman, Teri, played by Chloe Grace Moretz, who in reality, is all of 18 years old, yet has 52 acting credits on her sheet. You may recall her from the Scorsese film – Hugo from 2011. In this film, she plays a young escort for hire who works for a mean pimp who in turn, is part of Boston’s Russian Mafia.
Okay not much of a road map is needed to propel the story. A ‘client’ roughs up Teri who punches him. And that’s bad for business. So the pimp and his goons beat the crap out of Teri, to set an example for the other girls on this pimp’s string. She winds up in the hospital.
Enter Washington as McCall, who had taken a liking to Teri. So once he gets the details of her ‘connections’ the mayhem will begin.
McCall has things down to a science – meaning he can walk into a room, size up his opposition, no matter how many, in mere seconds, calculate how much time he needs to take them out one at a time, including what he will have to do. In short he follows his own script.
Now what he does is very impressive – not exactly what you would expect from a guy working in a big time hardware and home goods supply store.
But Fuqua and Wenk keep their cards close to the vest. We never learn where McCall worked, how he came to possess these skills, or who he worked for. Melissa Leo shows up about 2/3’s of the way in – and she has a history with Washington’s McCall. But they don’t explain her or their shared history either. All we know is the she has the pull and the connections to get Robert some valuable intel about his opponents.
On the outside, Washington’s McCall is just a very decent guy who helps out both Teri, and another guy who he works with at Home Mart, who wants to get a Security Officer license.
However, by the time the dust settles, and the final credits roll, McCall will have taken out an armed robber, and gone up the ladder of the Russian Mob hierarchy from the local pimp, a dirty Boston police detective played by David Harbor, who played Elliot Hirsch for three seasons on The Newsroom, to an imported mob enforcer played by Martin Csokas,
all the way to the top of this Mob’s food chain in Moscow.
With four or five set pieces of violence – the film sits squarely in the action genre – and does not disappoint – provided you know that going in – the film will keep its secrets, because it hopes you will like the film enough to come back for a rumored sequel.
So far, on a 65 million dollar cost – the film has an international box office take of 192 million. The DVD came out a month ago On December 30th, 2014 – and at the moment you can see it on Netflix too.
I’ll rate the film at three-point seven five out of five. I’ll recommend the film for those of you who are heavily into action films. Just don’t look for anything in the way of detective work, sex, or laugh-out-loud one-liners. The film has none of those. From a fashion perspective – Washington’s McCall, unlike Woodward’s McCall, does not own a Burberry trench-coat either.
But Director Fuqua does do action, and he does do it well. Washington’s stoic McCall will not be wowing you with his line readings or his emotions. But if you’re working in McCall’s town and your work is either illegal or nefarious, watch out, and do your best to not have to cross paths with The Equalizer.