Back in 2001 Denzel Washington and director Antoine Fuqua teamed up to make the gritty cop action-drama Training Day. I was a big fan of this film and agree with it being hailed as a modern classic. It went on to be a huge box office hit, the biggest of Fuqua’s career, and earned Washington a Best Actor Academy Award. Now, 13 years later the actor and director reteam for The Equalizer, based on a hit television series from the 80’s. What a difference 13 years can make. This movie is just awful, to quote Jay Sherman, “It Stinks”.
I am not familiar with the series, which starred the late Edward Woodward, other than Rob Reiner’s character yelling about it when the phone rang during a scene from last years Wolf of Wall Street. However I do love a good revenge action flick when it is done well. This is anything but that. It is a far cry from Training Day and it made me nostalgic for Denzel Washington in Tony Scott’s remake of Man on Fire from ten years ago, a movie that I did not even like in the first place, but was far more entertaining than this dreck.
Denzel is once again playing an “old hat” type of character. A guy who has a checkered past and is living a peaceful life until he is called out of retirement for some moral cause and has to go back to his old violent ways. A prostitute (Chloe Grace Moretz) he befriends at a local diner is brutally beaten by her Russian pimp. Denzel finds out and single-handedly kills the pimp and four other guys in the pimps fancy office thus setting off a huge war between himself and the Russian mafia that extends all the way to Moscow.
The plot is as inept as it sounds but unfortunately the action is not any better. This film moves at a snails pace and there is enough slow motion to make even Michael Bay say, “hey, this is a lot of slow motion”. The Equalizer is irresponsible with its action where it celebrated violence instead of condemning it. The violence and killing was not even done in a creative or artistic way. This was just tired actors and filmmakers going through the motions. It felt bloody just because it could afford to be and took all logic and rationale out of the characters agendas. Its cinematography was dark, hazy and ugly. The fact that the climax was in a giant, vacant hardware store is just a sign of lazy screenwriting. The same way many action films in the late 80’s and early 90’s always ended up in some abandoned warehouse.
The lone bright spot was Denzel himself. Once again he emerges from a bad action movie (he seems to like playing old tired action hero types) with his reputation intact. He is more than serviceable and does a good job as McCall, the stone cold “Equalizer” bent on revenge because deep down inside he has a strong moral center. Unfortunately the rest of the actors in this film are TERRIBLE.
Especially dreadful is Marton Csokas as the main heavy charged with finding out who killed the Russian pimp and his buddies. A lot of problems with The Equalizer can be blamed on the script but the producers chose to go cheap on the cast besides its star and nobody really supports or stands out in this film other than Denzel.
Basically, audiences are left with a dull, uninspired action movie with nothing to praise but it’s iconic leading man whom we all know is great and can do much better than this. The Equalizer is just A History of Violence (2005) with emphasis on the violence and none of the moral implications and substance that movie had, mixed with the action styling’s of Man on Fire (2004) with none of that films kinetic energy and creative zeal. Stay home if you want to watch Denzel Washington as a tough or angry, brooding action hero and check out any of the films he starred in for the late Tony Scott such as Crimson Tide, Man on Fire, or Unstoppable . Click on the video below to see what I mean.
That video montage made me smile. I miss Tony Scott, even though he might have made some stupid action movies, they always had a lot of energy, excitement and gusto. They were never tired and boring like The Equalizer. He was consistent, had a great working relationship with Denzel Washington and was a true visionary for the action genre and revenge sub-genre.