Published on September 28th, 2014 | by Curtis Mayfield
The Equalizer – Film Review
Reviewed by Curtis Mayfield M-H on September 22nd, 2014
Roadshow Films presents a film by Antoine Fuqua
Written by Richard Wenk, Michael Sloan (television series) and Richard Lindheim (television series)
Produced by Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Denzel Washington, Alex Siskin, Steve Tisch, Mace Neufeld, Tony Eldridge
Starring: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour
Music by Harry Gregson-Williams
Cinematography: Mauro Fiore
Edited by John Refoua
Running Time: 131 minutes
Release Date: September 25th, 2014
It might already be clear from this movie’s title and leading actor that some serious badass moments take place while watching The Equalizer. Unfortunately, for fans of director Antoine Fuqua and actor Denzel Washington, the “hell yeah!” moments in The Equalizer are more humorous than intimidating. Another unfortunate affair is that this movie is the first time Fuqua and Washington have worked together since the amazingly intricate Training Day, which means a high amount of expectation is on the two to create a quality film.
Washington plays Robert McCall, a retired Special Forces officer who leads a quiet life. Right from the jump we can already draw parallels between this and movies like Taken or pretty much any Liam Neeson movie made in the last six years. McCall lives a mundane but happy existence working a blue-collar job and reading classic books at his regular table at a 24-hour diner. In the first 30 minutes of the film McCall is presented as a normal, goodhearted man. This gradual introduction is chosen as if the audience doesn’t already know that the movie is going to turn into a gun toting action flick any minute now. This leads to the film’s first problem: the introduction is way too slow. The character of McCall is hardly complex enough to require this long and boring beginning. All we find out in this time is that the man enjoys reading well-known novels and drinking tea. This pacing sets the film up to be an unnecessary 2-hour plus groaner instead of a lean 90 minutes. Though it should be noted that the use of corresponding themes between the books McCall reads and the film’s overall premise is appealing.
As the movie slowly chugs along we are introduced to under-aged prostitute Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), which begins to give the film the grit that the trailer promised. From here the ball gets rolling. McCall and Teri share brief but deep conversations about books and music and start a friendship. It’s not until Teri is put into hospital by her abusive pimp, that McCall pulls his skills out of retirement and decides to level out the playing field. This part of the story is both exciting and cringe worthy. The excitement comes from seeing Washington kicking the crap out of a bunch of Russian mobster. The wincing comes from hearing clichéd Russian bad guys tough talk their way through a scene. It’s bad enough that the head of this organisation is called Vladimir Pushkin (played by Vladimir Kulich). Any real life baddies called Vladimir appear in the news lately?
From this point on we receive a blitz of characters that range from intriguing to pointless. The main players in the story are corrupt cop Masters (David Harbour) and unruly hitman Teddy (Marton Csokas) who save the film from total formulated movie foe pitfalls. Csokas has some of the film’s most menacing lines which makes him stand tall in a movie filled with shortcoming and formulated bad guys. It’s too bad that a talented actor like Washington only gets about three lines of worthy dialogue and uses two facial expressions throughout the whole movie. Washington’s character isn’t meant to be charming, fair enough, but he could be a little less boring.
By the time we cross the two hour mark and the end credits roll up we have to tally what we’ve been given: a slow and clunky movie with bad pacing, an over kill of characters (‘is that Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo? Oh wait doesn’t matter they’re gone.’), and stupid slow motion sequences. Most of the film’s credibility flies out the window when McCall is shown walking away in slow motion as a tanker explodes behind him. I thought Andy Samberg and Will Ferrell already made this technique laughable and obsolete. Washington is already guilty of this self-indulgent shot with Man On Fire, as is Fuqua with the Mark Wahlberg film Shooter.
To Fuqua’s credit he has made a film that still remains somewhat gritty in the face of these missteps. The violence shown isn’t sugarcoated like so many other action movies are guilty of doing. Though not realistic of course, the fight scenes don’t hold back. The best scene in the movie comes towards the end when McCall and his adversary Teddy sit down in a restaurant similar to Pacino and De Niro in Heat. This calm setting allows for the two intense characters a chance to shine and give the audience a little more than just one-liners and angry glances. As blockbuster action movies go The Equalizer does stand out from the rest since it doesn’t fall victim to ALL of the clichés that come with the genre. It’s just a shame that the film still has unintentionally comedic moments that take away from the potential grit this film could have provided. Not to say The Equalizer is terrible but it’s clear that both parties have made better films in their careers.
Summary: To Fuqua’s credit he has made a film that still remains somewhat gritty in the face of these missteps.