The last time director Antoine Fuqua and actor Denzel Washington got together for a film called Training Day in 2001, Denzel Washington walked away with an Academy Award for Best Actor. Now the pair have teamed up again for high-action crime thriller The Equalizer, and the results are… well, let’s just say they aren’t Academy Award-winning. Based on the 1985 television series of the same name, The Equalizer, follows the story of Robert McCall (Denzel Washington), your average man with an average job and an average life… or so it would seem. Like any good action protagonist, Robert has a secret past he doesn’t like to talk about, a past he hopes he never has to return to. That is, until he meets Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), an underage hooker working for a network of violent and corrupt Russian mobsters, whose mistreatment of this young and vulnerable girl stirs something within Robert that he’s tried to keep hidden for many years.
Then, after one particular incident lands Teri in a hospital bed, Robert finds he can stand idly by no longer. In order to put an end to her suffering, he must revisit his former life, draw up the skills he’s kept buried and – well, in case you don’t know the story, I wont reveal any more. This is because the first thirty minutes of the movie, when you’re not quite sure what’s going on or what kind of life this character has led, is actually the best part of the film. Shrouded in mystery, the audience is intrigued by the character of Robert, continually guessing as to what this man can do, what special powers he possesses, right up until the big reveal.
Unfortunately, once that is revealed, the movie takes a sharp downward turn and only falls faster as it progresses. The Equalizer is like a twelve-year-old video gamer’s dream, stuffed with so much violence and cliche action sequences that you can practically see the seams splitting. This film has almost no plot, and what little story there is only serves to increase the number of violent fight scenes they’re able to fit into the 131 minute run time. And even these scenes are over-indulgent and include some of the most played-out action stereotypes of all time, such as the melodramatic use of slow motion and the classic ‘walking casually away from an explosion when any sane person would be running for their life’.
There aren’t a whole lot of redeeming qualities to this film, other than Mauro Fiore’s cinematography (Avatar, Training Day), which was quite stunning at times, even if a little cliche. Denzel Washington shows off very little of the acting chops we know he has, and while Chloë Grace Moretz’s performance is probably the best of the lot, she plays a very little role after the first thirty minutes of the movie. Richard Wenk’s screenplay generally refrains from those snappy and trite one-liners we see in most action films (thank goodness), but the dialogue between characters is underwhelming and unrealistic.
For those who watch action movies for the explosives and the gun fights, and see the plot as a mere facilitator for this violence, then The Equalizer is the movie for you. There is literally nothing that might put a dampen on the action, there isn’t even a romantic sub plot to distract the main character from the task at hand. However, if you prefer a little bit more substance to your films, then I have to say The Equalizer is a swing and a miss. It’s entertaining, but it’s not original, not moving, and it certainly ain’t clever.
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