The Hippo


Jul 21, 2019








The Equalizer

The Equalizer
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

The Equalizer (R)

Denzel Washington very slowly kicks a lot of bad-guy ass in The Equalizer, a movie that will be a lot of fun to watch at home on your couch.
A trip to the refrigerator to look for a snack, the inevitable five minutes spent reading something on your smartphone, a conversation with your spouse about who’s driving whom where the next day — all of these things can comfortably nestle into the stretches of nothing scattered throughout The Equalizer.
Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) has the kind of quiet, orderly, lonely life that, in movies, means a person is either a serial killer or some kind of ex-special forces CIA 007 type. Even if you didn’t know it going in, we quickly figure out that McCall is the latter. Though he works at a big-box hardware store in the Boston area and lives alone in a nothing-special apartment, his difficulty sleeping at night tells us he has A Past. He spends most of his sleepless nights reading the classics at a 24-hour diner near-ish to his apartment. One of the regulars there is a young girl dressed in short skirts and a variety of wigs who calls herself Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz). Bob has a friendly kind of acquaintance with Teri, whose real name is Alina. He chats with her about the books he’s reading, about her dream of a singing career and not at all about what they both know he knows is her job, which involves a pushy Russian boss and sleazy clients who show up in limos. One day, she shows up with a few bruises on her face. A few days later, McCall hears that she’s landed in the hospital. The first set of bruises, we learn, was from one of her johns, whom she hit back. The more serious injuries were from the pimp trying to demonstrate to Teri and the other girls who work for him what happens when girls fight back. 
McCall — who we’ve seen help a coworker (Johnny Skourtis) with his physical training for a security guard job and later with an extortion racket being run on his mom — can’t let this kind of brutality stand. He finds Alina’s “boss” and offers him a choice, the kind of choice that ends with McCall telling the bleeding pimp that he should have taken the money McCall offered to buy Alina’s freedom. 
McCall’s good deed, however, has consequences. Alina’s boss was a key man in an East Coast-wide network of Russian mob-led criminal activity. Soon, a violent fixer (Marton Csokas) arrives in town — protected and assisted by a variety of Boston police officers (including one played by David Harbour, who also played one of the creeps in the recent A Walk Among the Tombstones) — and, to protect the integrity of the criminal enterprise, is tasked with finding and killing the man who interrupted operations. 
The Equalizer is at least 30, probably 45, minutes longer than it needs to be. There is a lot of repetition in the way the movie shows us McCall’s character. See the good man help coworkers. See the good man be friendly at work. See the good man be friendly and encouraging (without being creepy about it) to the young prostitute. See the good man help a coworker again. See the good man lecture one set of cops about honoring their badges. See the good man lecture another cop about honoring his badge. Then, see the bad-ass scan the room to estimate how he can kill a bunch of guys in 20 seconds. Or consider all the angles of disarming a sweaty addict robbing the store. The movie seems to think we need a lot of setup but, Equalizer, we get it. McCall is an old guy in dad-pants who has a strong moral code and can kick ass. I believe you, move it along.
In between all the unnecessary world-building (Russian mob? Explain how that works! Or don’t, because the words “Russian mob” are fairly self-explanatory), The Equalizer does have a decent bit of Washington being the ordinary-seeming, thoughtful bad-ass that has become his go-to action movie character. And I don’t mind that character. That character is fun to watch, even though it is more or less the same character he has been playing for the last 10 or more years. Washington wears that character well and, just as comedy is hard, “action star” isn’t as as easy as it looks (Exhibit 1: Ryan Reynolds — it should work, but Reynolds just can’t seem to make it click). 
The Equalizer is ultimately like veggie puffs — snack food but with just enough nutritional content (in the form of an enjoyable central character) to make you feel OK about consuming it. B- 
Rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, including some sexual references. Directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by Richard Wenk, The Equalizer is distributed by Columbia Pictures and is two hours and 11minutes long.
As seen in the October 2, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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