In its introductory scenes The Equalizer is not a bad movie. However, once the plot gets underway it becomes one. Here is yet another movie about a one-man arsenal hell-bent on mopping the floor with grimy hoodlums who are turning the world into a cesspool of inhuman cruelty while wallowing in blood and gore. You've seen this movie before – an ordinary guy walks into a room full of gun-toting thugs and, in 40 seconds of jump cuts, dispatches everybody in the room and then struts out the door accompanied by a rock soundtrack.
Clichés like this can be avoided. I was impressed last week by the skill with which Scott Frank rethought the elements of this genre in A Walk Among the Tombstones, so it stands to reason that I had hope that Antoine Fuqua could have that kind of restraint with this movie. After all, this is his re-teaming with Denzel Washington after directing him to a Best Actor Oscar twelve years ago in Training Day. He can't. This is a routine bloodbath that steals elements from Taxi Driver, Walking Tall, Taken, Dirty Harry, and every other man-against-the-machine movie of the last 40 years.
The Equalizer is based very loosely on a CBS television series starring the late Edward Woodward that ran from 1985 to 1989. It was a good show, featuring the adventures of a retired intelligence agent-turned-private eye named Robert McCall who specialized in helping out the little guy. The movie has a little of that, it has Denzel Washington as a guy who lives a fastidious lifestyle, barren of all clutter, who spends his days and nights in a course of routine. He works in a home supply store by day and spends his evenings at his regular table at the corner coffee shop reading Hemingway.
We don't know much about him but his obsessive compulsive nature fascinates us – he notices things. He's interested in those around him. At work, he takes pity on a co-worker named Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis) who is trying to lose weight to become a security guard. At the restaurant, he has friendly conversations with a young girl named Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz) whose choice of outfits leave no mystery about what she does for a living.
One night Teri is picked up by her pimp and later ends up in the ICU. McCall follows up on her and finds out that the pimp is working for the Russian mob. What follows is the kind of movie that Charles Bronson use to make in his later years when he was just repeating the formula of Death Wish. McCall single-handedly sparks a one-man war against the Russian Mafia, not satisfied to take out the guy who roughed up Teri, he has to rub out the entire foundation of the city's criminal elite. Over and over he walks into a room and wipes out every guy in the room with whatever happens to be available at the moment, mainly power tools. No points for guessing that his job at the home supply store will come back in the film's action climax.
The movie is one long bore. It starts off with some interest before it gets tedious, then it gets frustrating, then it gets boring, then it gets repetitive, then it becomes a parody of itself. The villains all look the same. The story repeats the same stuff over and over. And Denzel's character is such a good fighter that there is no dramatic tension in the fight scenes. By the time we see Denzel walking in slow-mo toward the camera while the building behind him blows up real good, you get the feeling that the writer and the director just didn't care.
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