Action films revolving around the tired veteran getting pulled back into the life they left behind are common and rarely rise above simple entertainment. “The Equalizer” is not a common action film, injecting fresh moments into a tired script.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”) and starring Denzel Washington and Martin Csokas, the film keeps the audience captive throughout the proceedings.
Robert McCall (Washington) is a man who lives a solitary life, helping his coworkers with everyday problems, reading incessantly, and constantly dishing out philosophical sayings. He befriends a young prostitute who frequents his favorite diner and tells her to change her world to better her life. She is soon beaten by her handlers, and McCall embarks on a one-man war with the entire Russian mob.
Fuqua’s direction is strong and his reuniting with Washington feels natural. This film is a lot simpler than a lot of his previous efforts, but the simplicity helps. Many aspects of Washington’s character are implied, showing Fuqua’s trust in the audience to figure it out on its own.
This is not a film about a man who struggles with his past, but a man who accepts what he is.
“The old man’s got to be the old man, the fish has got to be the fish,” McCall says, dispensing advice to the young prostitute about who we are in this world.
McCall knows everything he does is a moral gray area, and he has no qualms brutally dispatching entire rooms of men. He gives everyone a chance, and it is up to them how everything turns out.
“You’re going to die over $9,800,” McCall says to a low-level gangster at one point. “Her life will go on but yours will end right here.”
There was also a surprising amount of humor in the film. A lot of it was really dark, but you just had to appreciate how confident Washington’s character is.
Sadly, the other characters in the film have been seen elsewhere. Martin Csokas’ Russian fixer is the mirror of McCall, but he just enjoys his job a lot more. There was a lot of promise there, but as the film goes on, he reverts to the usual sociopath bad guy.
The rest of the cast all seem to be placeholders in the story to get it moving. Everyone seems to be helpless, and only McCall can help them. One scene towards the end where McCall goes to talk to someone from his past showed a lot of promise for a prequel.
The fight scenes were brutal and efficient, but wore their influences on their sleeves. McCall has a Sherlockian ability to plan his fights and executes his plans with the efficiency of Liam Neeson in any of his movies. It is entertaining, but a little lazy on Fuqua’s part. It was not bad, just overdone.
Finally, the end sequences were fun, especially seeing how household appliances were used to dispatch baddies. This film plays to the people who daydream about what they would do if their place of work were attacked.
The film ended on a good note, but the amount of danger present was a little underwhelming for the buildup. The scenes with Washington and Csokas having conversations and staring contests were electric, but the final showdown left more to the imagination. If two characters are presented as equal but opposite ends of the spectrum, there needs to be a showdown that showcases it.
Overall, the film is good entertainment that shows an action film can have a little bit of heart and thought. It may wear its influences on its sleeve, but it respects the sources. Few films can have the brutality and dark humor without being depressing to a point. For anyone needing their “Taken” fix, this is a must see.