Before the shooting starts there are some brief references to Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway. Robert aka Denzel in a brief conversation with the teenage prostitute played by Chloe Grace Moretz comments that the great thing about the Hemingway novella The Old Man and the Sea was that the old man met his greatest adversary in the fish. There are plenty of Russian mobsters sleeping with the fishes by the end of The Equaliser. This 2014 revenge thriller is immersed in the cliches and tropes of the genre, not even the superior production values can hide a b movie wrapped up in a A movie budget.
The pedigree of talent led by the formidable Washington and Moretz in a brief but important role create characters the audience want to empathise with . Martin Csokas in the evil henchman Russian mobster role brings some acting muscle to counteract the always watchable Washington. Harry Gregson-Williams score is terrific, and the slow rhythmic editing of the earlier scenes is substituted with the rapid fire techniques once the action takes centre stage. Cinematography by Mauro Fiore and production design from Naomi Shohan capture the all American Norman Rockwell goodness of Diners, old world housing and Baseball games, counterpointed against the corruption of the Russian Mob restaurants, all gold and reeking of decadence.
The story is written by Expendables 2 and The Mechanic scribe Richard Wenk. It feels like a rehash of seventies exploitation films like Michael Winners Death Wish. The original series The Equaliser starring Edward Woodward made in the mid eighties also tapped into a desire by the American public for vigilante justice. To wipe the scum off the street, the search for the moral certainty of killing in the name of justice and right.
Fuqua and Wenk takes this basic premise and update it to modern day America. Washington plays an ex-ops specialist agent who has decided to go simple. He works at Home-mart, and lives the life of a monk. He has an empty apartment devoid of consumer possessions. The filmmakers spend a significant time setting up the simplicity of this life, unable to sleep he pops down to the all night diner where he meets the Russian prostitute Teri. She winds up in hospital this motivates Robert to go on a killing spree and taking on the Russian Mafia spearheaded by a guy named Pushkin. The arrival of Teddy (Csokas) “I’m not hear to say please, I’m here to tell you what to do,” prior to pounding the flesh of the local Irish mobster. “It’s a message it says i’m here.”
Antoine Fuqua can clearly put together a robust action thriller, for doubters see Training Day or Shooter. The Equaliser is a technically effective genre film, yet it is hardly groundbreaking and the climax is awful.