The Equalizer is loosely based on an 80s television series with the same name. This reinvention in comparison aims to be darker and much violent, but the film's ambition is basically turning its star, Denzel Washington, into a grittier action hero. It somehow pays off when he starts killing bad guys in cold blood, and it's amazing how he could still carry the character's humanity along the way. The film troubles when it gets out of hand to its glorious vigilantism despite it takes place in a world seems apart from that context. If you tend to ignore the sentiments and shade of reality, you can still tell that it's a pretty entertaining piece of action, but in general it's just difficult to not notice its mess of tones, even with that amount of fun.
There is one side in the film when it's totally gripping, that is when we just see the protagonist as a person living in an ordinary life, often being with people and often encountering them getting in trouble by crime. This grounded world just keeps most of its darkness in their presence, sometimes feeling like a doomed, helpless world. But once the hero reveals what he truly is capable of, it doesn't actually sucks out its entertainment quality, but it does betrays that intriguing context, nearly turning itself into a superhero movie, except of course, it's less silly and much violent. McCall, in shorthand, is too competent for any criminal he fights and often leaves with a perfect swagger. It may not be big deal to many viewers, especially the action fans who are already enjoying the blood, but the film sets up an existing theme that seems to be a lot interesting to consider instead of indulging itself with its own way of justice.
The cool slow-mos and stylish special effects might have also rob the sense of realistic tension, but put that aside, each action scene is watchable enough, we don't usually see a wider blockbuster today that has the guts to fearlessly show brutal movie violence like this. This is probably the only mundane element existing in those set pieces. Denzel Washington shifts his character to two personalities: one is the likable ordinary man himself and the anti-hero with a hidden cosmic hate through its world. The performance does sum up the overall movie, from gravitas to smugness, and what's great is they're both effective anyway. However, the villains (and their tattoos) have blatantly shown that they're evil: the main antagonist seems like he's written to be over-the-top, almost like a cartoon villain than a believable human mafioso, but Marton Csokas gives a little grimness as he have fun with it.
The Equalizer would have been nicer if it was a little shorter and much consistent, but I could guarantee that it still entertains, it does have the appeal through its action and acting. Though, there are more serious things that could have made it a lot compelling thriller. The film does have the knack of embracing either of its elements, but it just keeps shifting back and forth, like we're not getting to the actual big picture. Well, if you can accept that the hero is this superior then it might work better for the experience. For now, it can be endlessly watchable, but you will only find few things that are remarkable about it.
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