MOVIE REVIEW: THE EQUALIZER / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ANTOINE FUQUA / SCREENPLAY: RICHARD WENK / STARRING: DENZEL WASHINGTON, MARTON CSOKAS, CHLOË GRACE MORETZ, DAVID HARBOUR, BILL PULLMAN, MELISSA LEO / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 26th
Denzel Washington is on fire again. With him cast opposite a little girl, strutting smoothly away from mammoth explosions and taking down bad guys in all sorts of brutal ways, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a belated sequel to Man on Fire. Only this time, Dakota Fanning has been replaced by a considerably older and worryingly sexualised Chloë Grace Moretz, all proper grown up now since those Kick-Ass flicks and now playing a Jodie Foster-alike teen prostitute who needs protection from Russian pimps.
The Equalizer sees Washington play the titular vigilante in an update of the ‘80s TV show. Washington’s Robert McCall is now considerably more vicious than Edward Woodward ever was, playing one of those typical ex-military guys who wakes before his alarm, keeps his hair rigorously cropped and polishes his shoes with a toothbrush each morning. He can’t sleep (probably due to his morally dubious past) so he reads in an all-night diner, where he meets Moretz’s troubled teen Teri. Dressed to impress her punters, she has dreams of becoming a singer but is stuck in a nasty situation with violent customers and an even nastier Russian pimp named Slavi. When Teri is beaten so badly that she ends up in intensive care, McCall refuses to sit by any longer and begins to use his severe skills to start exacting retribution on those he feels need help equalling the score.
Aptly for a reboot, the character and the story feel like absolutely nothing new here. The only surprises come a short way into the film when Moretz disappears after giving a mesmerising performance in the early scenes, and then Washington appears to dispatch all the bad guys at the end of the first act. Of course, there are bigger fish to fry for McCall, and Moretz’s untimely bow from the film is the catalyst for the rest of Washington’s rampage of revenge. Washington does this kind of cool, calm character while sleepwalking now and despite the odd spouting of clichés, both Washington and Moretz soar in their few emotive scenes together.
However, The Equalizer is, unsurprisingly, not really about emotion. Director Antoine Fuqua’s previous film Olympus Has Fallen was unfairly slated by many but had a joyous mix of brutal bloodletting and black humour. The Equalizer follows suit with some truly nasty villains; all tattooed dead-eyed psychopathic Russians with plenty of money but absolutely no heart. It’s lucky Denzel’s around with some seriously impressive skills to see to these pesky Russkies. And see to them he does. Fuqua relishes the violence with every kill gloriously brutal and satisfyingly gory. When you see the way these bad guys treat women, you will be lusting for the cathartic take downs that McCall delivers to his victims. Most excitingly, it all leads up to a hardcore version of Home Alone in a hardware store which gives a whole new meaning to the phrase DIY.
While Fuqua goes a little heavy on the Washington worship, (watch in awe as he walks away from an explosion or drips menacingly under some sprinklers) The Equalizer is undoubtedly a thrilling character to watch. With his impressive skill set, he never really appears to be in danger so it is unfortunately left to all the female characters (read: prostitutes) to suffer at the hands of the villains. Hit Girl gets hit and then gets her ass seriously kicked, and the fate of any other prostitutes in the movie becomes despairingly inevitable. Washington has fun with his charismatic vigilante but the brooding score, and frequent literary references (McCall is a big reader) attempt to make you take The Equalizer more seriously than your average action thriller. After taking on corrupt cops and seemingly the entire Russian mob without seeming to break much of a sweat, it will be interesting to see if a sequel can find a villain who will truly be the equal of Washington’s Equalizer.
Expected rating: 6 out of 10