Film: “The Equalizer”; Cast: Denzel Washington, Maston Csokas, Chole Grace Mortez, David Meunier and Johnny Skourtis; Director: Antoine Fuqua; Rating: **1/2
There are some strong similarities between last week’s Keenu Reaves’ “John Wick” and Denzel Washington’s character in “The Equalizer”. Like Keenu Reaves, Washington plays a man with a mysterious and deliberately cryptic past that involves a dead wife and an incident that revives his inner, baser instinct.
But unlike “John Wick”, this is not a tale of revenge. Instead, its premise is strongly reminiscent of the February 2014 released Liam Neeson’s “Taken”. It is the tale of a man with a very particular set of skills who decides to balance injustice and exploitation by unflinchingly engaging in acts of brutal violence.
Washington plays Robert McCall, whose quiet life as a manager in a big hardware store is interrupted when Slavi (David Meunier), a goon who works for the Russian Mafia Pushkin, beat up a teenage prostitute Alina (Chloe Grace Moretz) whom McCall had befriended as a fellow late-night diner at a 24-hour restaurant.
Incensed, he sets on a path to deliver justice for Alina. With wits and weapons, he kills Salvi and his goons. The media reports this as a turf-war massacre, so Pushkin dispatches his most trusted and fearsome assistant; a demonically tattooed man named Teddy (Marton Csokas) to settle scores and mark territories.
Meanwhile, McCall enjoys the peevishness and righteousness of hunting down sociopaths and fighting sardonic demons that include the Russian crime syndicate. But the crux of the film pivots on his cat and mouse chase with Teddy.
The action is dynamic and gory, with fisticuffs, shoot outs, stabbing with; knives, glass shards and cork-screws.
On the performance front, Chloe as the vulnerable Alina and the rest of the cast are just pawns in the film.
Washington does not disappoint. As McCall, he is melancholic, stoic and sells you the character of a cold-bloodied Samaritan and the film. He does not seem crazy. He just seems right. Yet, you do not don’t believe a minute of it.
That’s because Director Antoine Fuqua, whose earlier films “Training Day”, “Shooter” and “Olympus Has Fallen” has executed the film in a procedural manner where McCall’s impeccable physical skills go through the business of ruthless and calm extermination with clinical precision.
The delayed back story referencing his past does not reveal his motivation or incitement for such a strong behavioral pattern. Lack of this in-depth character portrayal, makes it difficult to connect to the actors and the film, holistically.
Director of Photography, Mauro Fiore’s frames are dramatic and impactful. They capture not only the swift moments of the action, but also the calm solitude of Robert McCall.
Overall the plot does not gather momentum and “The Equalizer” with its slow paced narration is just a new cinematic adaptation of the 1985- 1989 TV series of the same name, that was originally aired on CBS Channel in America.