Director: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grac
131 mins; Class 15;
KRS Releasing Ltd
I have fond memories of The Equalizer, the 1980s TV series starring British actor Edward Woodward about a former intelligence agent who offers his services, free of charge, to help the helpless.
This big screen incarnation shares the show’s title and central premise, starring Denzel Washington as Robert McCall.
Clearly a man fighting his own demons, McCall is now leading an ordinary quiet life of routine. By day he works at a Boston DIY store, by night he can be found in a local diner, reading books and drinking tea made from a teabag he brings from home.
At the diner he befriends Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young prostitute who is intrigued by his books.
When Teri is brutally beaten by her violent Russian pimp, McCall intervenes, calling on his long dormant special skills to avenge Teri, not realising that he has stepped on the toes of a ruthless Russian mobster. The mobster decides to send his right-hand man Teddy (Marton Czokas) to deal with McCall.
Despite the update to contemporary times, there is still the feeling of a typical 1980s revenge movie in its execution, with its brooding leading man, bog standard Russian villains, and in-your-face violence.
It has its moments, some of which (such as the scene where McCall retrieves a personal item stolen from a colleague by a petty thief for whom justice was clearly dispensed off-screen) are as powerful as any of those depicting the relentless violence we are subjected to.
But, overall, I couldn’t shake the feeling of déjà vu that permeates throughout.
Nonetheless, The Equalizer is good enough popcorn entertainment, made classier by the presence of Washington.
He is as cool as ever, calm and collected. He even manages to keep cool, calm and collected when he’s fighting off five bad guys at once.
The scene is heightened by the stylised approach director Antoine Fuqua adopts for his leading man.
Fuqua uses extreme close-ups of Washington, as McCall fixes his icy stare left and right and delivers his lines in a droll manner. He assesses the situation in a matter of seconds before letting rip, nary breaking a sweat, timing himself to ensure he’s still got what it takes.
And yet, style notwithstanding, this is still a kind of character we have seen before.
Washington effortlessly adds a few layers. The cold, emotionless tough guy is offset nicely by the genuine warmth and friendship –albeit distant – he offers his co-workers and especially to Teri.
Washington is one of those actors I rarely tire of watching… yet this is the sort of character he can do in his sleep and I admit I longed for a little more depth, both to McCall and the script as a whole.
New Zealand actor Czokas has plenty of menacing presence as the elegant yet dangerous Teddy. Yet, I found his portrayal of Teddy at times crossed the line into caricature, not helped by his accent, an odd mix of Russian and Cockney.
Chloë Grace Moretz creates an engaging and sympathetic character in the small but pivotal role of Teri, making McCall’s desire to help her out all that more plausible.