For what seems like years, I’ve heard about Denzel Washington’s adaptation of the CBS television show The Equalizer. The movie has finally arrived and Washington has reunited with his Training Day director, Antoine Fuqua to deliver a solid revenge thriller that could have been tightened here and there to make it one of the greats.
Robert McCall (Washington) is a quiet man who works at a home improvement superstore, reads books, drinks tea, and helps his co-workers when they need it. He also battles insomnia. When this hits, he walks down to a local all-night diner to while away the hours. One of the regular patrons he befriends is Alina (Chloë Grace Moretz), a prostitute who is having problems with her pimp (David Meunier). When Alina gets beaten up, it awakens something inside McCall that he’d buried long ago. He goes to the pimp’s office and brutally murders him and four of his henchmen. It turns out that they are members of the Russian mafia and their boss back in Moscow, Pushkin (Vladimir Kulich) is none too happy about it. He sends his trusted lieutenant, Teddy (Marton Csokas), to hunt down whoever killed his men and that leads to a confrontation with McCall.
On the surface, The Equalizer is a violent revenge tale with a decent story, but at its core, it’s a franchise starter that is a solid beginning to what could be a great series for Washington. It’s all-out action once it gets going and McCall’s vigilante efforts are thrilling, but the story is kind of weak. The audience is beaten over the head with its message of people accepting who they are and apparently, McCall is a murdering sociopath, but he does it for the right reasons and goes against the right people. Alina, who disappears for the majority of the film, becomes an afterthought as McCall sets to lay waste to Pushkin’s operation. Certain elements of the film sort themselves out a little too easily, but it’s a small quibble with a very good action film. The story could have been tightened up if the people in danger were McCall’s co-workers instead of Alina, who feels unconnected to the rest of McCall’s life. However, like Jack Reacher and A Walk Among the Tombstones, this film is mainly designed to get the series started.
Washington is in his element as McCall. You can tell behind his stoic and steely exterior, he’s having a blast with the role. Csokas is a formidable villain, but at times he’s a little too formidable, conjuring up necessary information from seemingly out of nowhere. Moretz is one puzzle piece that doesn’t seem to fit. She seems lost in this role and never completely rang true to me, almost as if she were intimidated by Washington. I should also give a pat on the back to Johnny Skourtis who plays the affable Ralphie, the co-worker McCall takes the most interest in helping and probably should have been the focus of getting McCall into the vigilante game.
Overall, The Equalizer is an entertaining film for revenge movie fans and a great kickoff to an exciting new franchise. Washington is in top form and his performance helps shore up some of the film’s problems. If you like violent action films that earn their R-ratings, check out The Equalizer.