By Gary Murray
Starring Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz and Marton Csokas
Written by Richard Wenk and based on the TV series by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Running time 128 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating Matinee
Arguably, Denzel Washington is one of the biggest movie stars on the planet. During the years he has starred in such roles as Training Day, Unstoppable and Flight. He always delivers an interesting performance but all of his films have been single entry adventures.
The one thing he does not have on his resume is a franchise character, the kind of role that makes a series of flicks and a boatload of cash. Examples of this are Robert Downey Jr. as both Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes and Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. To rectify that situation, we get The Equalizer.
Based on the TV series of the same name, The Equalizer is about a man who takes justice in his own hands. Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is a simple man living a simple life. He works at a home improvement store but pretty much keeps to himself.
Every few moments, our reluctant hero dispenses some advice to his young co-workers. The only true friend he has is Raphie (Johnny Skourtis) an overweight man who wants to be part of the store security team. Robert is helping Raphie make weight by coaching and training.
One of Robert McCall’s problems is that he cannot sleep. He spends nights at a downtown Boston 24 hour café, a home for ladies of the evening. One of those working girls is Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), a young Russian.
She and Robert strike up a conversation about literature, specifically The Old Man and the Sea. It seems that Robert is reading through the 100 most important books as a promise to someone in his past.
One night, Teri doesn’t show up and the short order cook tells Robert that she has been beaten badly by her pimp. He visits her at the hospital and gets information about her assailant from another working girl.
Robert doesn’t get mad, he decides to get even. It seems that Robert had a former life in a clandestine government agency and has ‘a certain set of skills’.
Finding the bad guys, Robert goes in and tries to buy her freedom. When tact fails, the bad guys try to take Robert down. He uses his set of skills to destroy half a dozen men. The problem is that these men are part of a much larger crime organization.
The Russians send Teddy (Marton Csokas) to investigate. Teddy knows that the man he is looking for cannot just be a home improvement store worker. He begins an investigation with the intensity of a shark going after a seal. He is a vicious and ruthless pursuer, full of cold venom.
Eventually Robert becomes a one-man vigilante squad, righting the wrongs in his life. The film builds to a major confrontation between the two men. Along the way, we see how similar the two men are in achieving their goals.
This film will probably be the first part of a series. The way the screenplay flows, it is meant to be part of a greater whole. One can see how this will turn into a bundle of flicks with the character righting wrongs. It is populist sensibility that brings the masses back, again and again.
Basically, this is a one man show with Denzel as the center of the universe. Chloe Grace Moretz is in a scant few scenes that bookend the film. It is a catch and pursue between good and evil, two men who will eventually meet and battle. It is the serpentine path toward confrontation that drives The Equalizer.
The film is directed by Antoine Fuqua, the man behind Training Day and Shooter. He knows his way around both action scenes and the more esoteric aspects of character. The beat where Robert takes down all the Russians is one of the most exciting single scenes of the year. He also finds little moments that draw sympathies to the characters.
The Equalizer is more an entertainment for the masses that the kind of film Denzel is known for–Oscar-nominated character dramas. This is also the kind of film that should make a ton of cash.