To have a good “One Man vs. The World” action movie, you really only need three things: a great hero, a director with a little flair, and a formidable villain. Everything else is just explosions and body count.
“The Equalizer” checks off all three boxes and while there is clearly an undercurrent of ridiculousness running through the whole thing, this is essentially the best possible version of this movie you could hope for.
Our hero is a layup, his name is Robert McCall and he is played by Denzel Washington. No further explanation is needed.
“The Equalizer” is directed by Antione Fuqua, who most famously directed Denzel in “Training Day.” He’s been a little all over the place as a director since then, but the dude has style and I’m sure the only pitch he had to make to get Denzel on board was “I am going to film you in slow motion in the rain.”
The movie’s most pleasant surprise comes in the form of the villain, played by character actor Marton Csokas, who is essentially the Russian equivalent of Harvey Keitel’s character in “Pulp Fiction.” He is evil incarnate as a fixer for the Russian mob and is enough of a presence the movie doesn’t falter when the focus is off Denzel.
“The Equalizer” is based on the 1980s television show in name only. Since it bears no real resemblance to its predecessor, it seems kind of pointless to even evoke the old show at all, unless it was all just so they could swipe the title, which I do have to admit, is pretty badass.
Denzel’s character is a retired government operative of some sort who spends his days working at a big-box home-improvement store and his nights reading works of classic literature in an all-night diner.
It is there where he befriends Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), a youthful hooker with a heart of gold who winds up on the wrong side of some Russian mobsters.
Denzel will not stand for that and goes after her abusive pimps and winds up incurring the wrath of the entire Russian mafia. His character is meticulous and borderline OCD and seems bored with the prospect of just shooting bad guys.
He’s like the MacGyver of death, turning everyday items into lethal weapons. This is an intensely violent movie and it reaches the point where you’re like “Denzel, just pick up one of their guns and shoot everybody. Stop showing off.”
This movie is overlong by about 20 minutes and will start to fall apart if you start pulling at the loose threads of logic — but that’s not why we’re here, is it? This is a celebration of Denzel punching people and blowing stuff up. Everything else is gravy.
What makes Denzel great in movies like this are the quieter moments where his charm and gravitas carry us between adrenaline rushes. The movie really crackles when Denzel and Csokas get to face off in conversation instead of combat. You can tell Denzel likes having a worthy competitor.
Speaking of competition, there’s also a part of me that believes Denzel saw Liam Neeson raking in the cash, realized those should be his roles, called his agent, and said “Get me my own ‘Taken!'” And here we are.
At any rate, “The Equalizer” delivers everything it promises, which is really all you can ask for. Denzel would be disappointed in you if you started getting greedy.
“The Equalizer” is rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, including some sexual references.