The Equalizer shares primarily its name only with the 1980s show it got its moniker from and much more with Taken and Denzel Washington’s own Man on Fire. Reuniting with his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua, the picture aims to be nothing more than finding clever ways for its star to violently kill bad guys. In that sense, Fuqua’s stylish work and Denzel’s restrained cool (at least in outward personality) often work here. Expectations for anything else than that should be tempered.
Our headliner is Robert McCall, who is unquestionably the Jack Bauer of hardware store employees. He spends his days there and his nights at a diner where he strikes up a friendly relationship with Teri, a teenage hooker with a heart of gold (Chloe Grace Moretz) who’s also an aspiring singer. Why the filmmakers didn’t give her a child with debilitating asthma or other medical ailment to complete the troika of movie cliches is unknown. Speaking of Russian numbers, five is the number of well connected mobsters from that country that McCall offs when he gets involved with Teri’s affairs. And that leads to a whole lotta Denzel bad assery for the pic’s padded two hour plus running time.
If you hadn’t guessed, McCall is no average hardware store employee. His background is only glossed over but there’s been involvement with Black Ops and the CIA. We get a scene with Melissa Leo and Bill Pullman that provides a little insight. Yet The Equalizer doesn’t spend much time on character development. After all, there’s vengeance to be doled out. McCall’s glory days of government service may have provided quite a satisfactory viewing experience. It would certainly be more insightful than the several minutes of screen time where McCall helps an overweight employee become a security guard.
Back to the vengeance. It’s no secret that Denzel does this kind of thing better than most. If not for his participation, this might be a direct to VOD release. The decision to make his character an indestructible killing machine saps a good bit of tension away. The Russian mobsters are no different than ones you’ve seen before. It comes down to this – if you thought Taken was pure action bliss, sign up. This is about on Man on Fire level for me: not one of Denzel’s more memorable entries, but OK.
McCall’s employment locale of Home Mart does provide him with some clever tools to dispense of his prey. One suspects, though, that if he’d worked at Burger King, it’d be no different. He would’ve figured out a method to decapitate baddies with a Whopper wrapper and dislodge tracheas with a chicken fry. He’s just that resourceful.
**1/2 (out of four)