Stop me if the following movie plot sounds familar…
A former black ops specialist enjoying his retirement is pulled back into action by a call to justice.
Sound familiar? We’ve seen Liam Neeson, Kevin Costner and Pierce Brosnan all play this role in the past year. Now, it’s Denzel Washington’s turn.
Director Antoine Fuqua reteams with Denzel Washington for the first time since Training Day. Washington plays Robert McCall, a seemingly boring man who spends his days working at Home Mart (a Home Depot knockoff) and spends his nights reading classic literature at a city diner. During his nightly cafe visits, he makes an unlikely friendship with a young prostitute (Chloe Grace Moretz). Over time, she quits showing up at the diner and he eventually finds her in the hospital due to the fact that her Russian pimps have beaten her nearly to death.
McCall takes this act of violence personally and takes his revenge out of the Russian pimps. Apparently, these men turn out to be local members of the Russian mob. In turn, an intimidating Russian enforcer, Teddy (Marton Csokas), is sent to track down the mysterious assailant and take him out. Throughout the course of the flick, it’s a cat-and-mouse game between the two professional killers, but it’s never quite clear who’s the cat and who’s the mouse.
This is based off the little-known ’80s TV series where the McCall character was a detective and would accept contract jobs for people who have been wronged. His intention was to level the playing field, ala eye for an eye. This updated version of the character solves problems through grisly murder.
Honestly, I didn’t quite understand the intent of this uneven movie. The first 30 minutes drag on. You simply only see McCall in boring situations with minor references to his mysterious past. Once he starts his rampage, the violence never stops. Things ramp up and each situation becomes more ridiculous than the previous. Sitting at 2 hrs 11 minutes, you can’t help but think that 20 minutes could have been shaved off near the beginning. I’m not sure why this movie was kidding itself about being an introspective former killer living a quiet life type of story. It’s a ridiculous action movie through and through.
If you can handle the excessive blood, the action is quite fun. McCall sets his stopwatch before each kill, timing himself to achieve maximum efficiency. He is very Bourne-like in his proficiency, blink-and-you-miss-it style of fighting. In a time where you have to suspend plenty of disbelief in seeing the elderly Costner and Neeson taking down guys 40 years younger than they are, you will believe that 59-year old Denzel is still the unstoppable force that he always was.
I’m not sure why Chloe Moretz is in this movie. She appears for a total of 6 minutes. Denzel is standard Denzel, which is solid if you have no expectations of imagining him as anyone other than an angry Denzel Washington. He is essentially the retired Man on Fire. Csokas is a solid villain and gives Washington’s character plenty to play off of.
The movie eventually reaches a point of letting go any sign of reality. And frankly, it’s better for it. It delivers the kind of action that you’d expect from the director of Olympus Has Fallen.
The final battle takes place in their version of Home Depot. It is actually a great setting for a third act bloodbath. McCall takes on the militant wing of the Russian mafia in the most ludicrous, yet fun ways possible. Think Home Alone, but with power tools and professional hitmen involved. The action goes full-camp. It was impossible not to laugh at the implausibility of each situation. I’ll just say this, one of his final weapons is a nail gun that apparently cocks just like a shotgun. McCall is wielding this gun and walking in slow-motion as the fire sprinklers are raining down on him in a perfect action money shot.
All in all, this movie was ridiculously awesome, but also awesomely bad. It crosses the line of being unintentionally funny several times. If you can stay awake for the first half hour, you’ll be rewarded with an unbelievable action movie that only skirts by because it doesn’t explain anything.
The Equalizer is worth a rental, but not worth spending more than a few dollars on.