Equalizer (2014) – DVD Review 4.5/5 Stars
Everything old is new again. With loose ties to the 1980s television series it was based on, The Equalizer came to the big screen last year with Denzel Washington taking over the role of Robert McCall from the late Edward Woodward. I have to say this film was a lot of fun, but not without a few minor flaws.
Working nine to five at the local Home Mart big box hardware store, Robert is a kind, quiet man who takes the bus back and forth to work, plays on the company softball team and helps out his co-workers whenever he can. At night, he can’t sleep and goes to a neighbourhood diner and has a cup of tea and reads his book. Every night. Robert is detail oriented in his routine, with a touch of OCD. Striking up conversations with the proprietor or Teri, a friendly prostitute (Chloë Grace Moretz), we learn that he’s trying to finish reading a list of “one hundred books you should read before you die”, a feat his late wife did not accomplish. One night when he goes for his cup of tea, he finds Teri has been beaten up by her pimp, so Robert visits the pimp to try and purchase the young girl’s freedom. When that doesn’t work, he ends up killing him and his bodyguards. The attack sets off a chain of events involving Russian drug dealers, assassination attempts, and corrupt cops. Robert stops them all with precise, violent action.
Denzel Washington is one of the finest actors around, and he did an excellent job as The Equalizer. Deadly serious when he needed it, light and friendly at other times, he simply “got” the role of Robert McCall. Teaming up again with Antoine Fuqua, the director of Training Day, certainly didn’t hurt either. In the bonus features of the DVD, the writers said that they had written the script and really re-written the role for Washington. I say the role was re-written, because this big screen Robert McCall is quite different from the television version. The show had time to establish more mystery and more backstory for the character, the film kind of tells us all that we need to know as quickly as we need to know it (which was fine). This McCall rarely used guns, whereas in the show McCall usually carries a Walther PPK. I kind of missed the seemingly omnipresent black leather gloves he wore in the show, and I really missed the Jag. Woodward’s McCall used to drive around in a black Jaguar XJ6. In the movie, he rode the bus a lot.
The only thing I didn’t like about the film, and I got over it pretty easily, were the obvious tropes being laid before us; there just seemed to be too many at one point. The foreshadowing was not very subtle, and a few times seemed kind of silly to me. If you tell someone to get everyone out of the building and get them to safety couldn’t they just once stay out of the building? Ah well. The film was quite violent, but the worst of it was handed out to the bad guys with top notch fight choreography making everything feel fairly realistic. There were a few scenes that were not for the squeamish, but overall the “equalizing” was entertaining and made this one of the best action films I’ve seen in recent memory.
Bottom Line: Other than a few pieces of missing nostalgia, the film was just as, if not more, entertaining than the show it was based on. I’ll be happy to see it develop into an action franchise, as it was definitely left open for sequels as McCall places an ad online much like the classified ad of the past. “Got a Problem? Odds Against You? Call the Equalizer 212-555-4200”