Movie Review: The Equalizer.
Directed By: Antoine Fuqua.
Starring: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz and Melissa Leo.
Denzel Washington (Flight) reunites with Training Day director, Antoine Fuqua, for The Equalizer, a remake of a 1980's vigilante TV show of the same name. Washington plays Robert McCall, a retired special forces agent with a "specific set of skills" and yes....that is a Taken quote. The Equalizer resembles Liam Neeson's action flick in more ways than one. McCall is living a fairly ordinary life, he works at a home depot store, has a tidy apartment and goes to the same diner every night.
McCall has a budding friendship with a young prostitute played by Chloe Grace Moretz who wants to leave her undesirable life behind and pursue her dreams of being a singer. When she attempts to break out of this line of work, she is beaten severely. After McCcall witnesses Alina's (Moretz) injuries, he springs back into action to make the people responsible pay for what they did.
For a large portion of the film, Antoine Fuqua's direction felt very focused and very precise, much like the character of McCall, but when the plot kicks in and the action gets going, the film lost its precise direction and turned into a slightly ridiculous yet still fun action movie. Although its never spelled out for us, its pretty obvious that McCall has some form of OCD, he has to have everything incredibly neat, he will open and close doors again and again until he is satisfied with it and this aspect of McCall's character was perhaps the most interesting thing about the film.
I was enjoying The Equalizer from the very beginning, I loved the main character and how he acted about his day, I really like how the film was shot and it had a reasonably dark yet fun tone to it. The film does get gradually more ridiculous as it goes along, for example towards the end there is a gigantic explosion caused by McCall that he doesn't even look at which honestly did make me roll my eyes a bit, and that short scene was perhaps the only one in the film that I didn't like, mainly because it felt like it was shoved in there at the last second just so we can have the generic action hero shot.
The film's plot is very simple yet interesting, but the film takes time to sprinkle in shorter little stories to make the character and the film feel bigger than just this one story that we are focusing on. Of course these scenes added to the fairly long run time but I didn't mind them because they did feel like they were adding something to the character of McCall.
The thing that I really took away from The Equalizer was how well Antoine Fuqua understands action, yes the action is slightly over the top but not once is it mindless. Fuqua makes the action serve the story and more importantly serve the character. From the beginning we see McCall calculate everything in his day and be very precise about everything and that has a big impact on the action scenes, when he walks in a room he calculates the time it will take to take out the bad guys, how he'll take them out and everything he's going to do, before he throws the first punch, he knows how its going to end. Fuqua and Washington worked very well together to do this, whilst Denzel is performing these action scenes he almost has a completely straight face and that's because he is thinking about his next move all the time and Fuqua shoots and choreographs the action perfectly. The film is stylishly violent, it is quite bloody at times but it never felt gratuitous. The violent action is balanced with some well timed humor that keeps The Equalizer fun, when McCall offers to help an overweight colleague lose weight to become a security guard, the film takes a break from the dark story to offer up some well needed laughs.
The movie's villain is also an aspect of the film done very well, he is played by Marton Csokas who you may recognize from a lot of other movies where he has small roles but he was extremely good as this villainous yet unfortunately cliched character. The film did a very good job of making its villain a parallel to McCall, he also is very precise and neat yet extremely deadly. There is a scene towards the end, quite a quiet scene between Washington and Csokas set at a dinner table in a restaurant where they simply talk and that served as a perfect build up to the inevitable grand finale, which is indeed grand. Csokas was perfectly cast as the villain, he was calm and collected yet so obviously evil and when he shows his true colors by beating a man to death, its slightly terrifying.
The last time Denzel Washington worked with Antoine Fuqua he won an Oscar for his role in Training Day, but whilst he most likely won't be winning any Oscars here, he still gives a masterful performance and escalates the film to a much higher level. Denzel is still one of the greatest movie stars on the planet and he brings everything to the table here, drama, humor and performs incredibly well in the action scenes. McCall plays like a stick of dynamite, you know he's going to explode at some point yet the build up is extremely tense.
Chloe Grace Moretz gives the most mature performance of her career so far, whilst she doesn't have a large amount of screen time, she still gives a fine performance in the scenes she's in.
The film builds up to an impressive and inventive final act that felt like a grown mans "Home Alone" as McCall traps and terrorizes the bad guys in his workplace. Whilst it was ridiculous, it was always exciting to see how McCall would dispatch his next target, whether it be with a drill or a nail gun.
The Equalizer is a solid and entertaining action thriller that is creative and fun from the very start. Whilst the film never blew my mind, it did entertain me for its 132 minute run time. The movie never felt like it knew where to end, I spotted around four different places where it could have ended perfectly but of course it had to have the sequel tease at the very end.
I definitely recommend [The Equalizer](movie:4448) if you're looking for fun and creative action, a great performance by Denzel Washington or just an all round entertaining movie. I give it a B+!
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