The Equalizer (2014) / Action-Thriller

MPAA Rated: R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, including some sexual references
Running Time: 131 min.

Cast: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz, Johnny Skourtis, David Harbour, Melissa Leo, Bill Pullman, Haley Bennett
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Screenplay: Richard Wenk (based on the TV series by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim)

Review published September 26, 2014

The Equalizer is very loosely based on the hit show from the 1980s, starring Edward Woodward, that ran from 1985 to 1989. This new incarnation ramps up the comic book aspects of its premise and marries it with much more emphasis on bloody, grisly violent retribution for its bad guys.

Denzel Washington (2 Guns, Flight) stars as Bob McCall, a former Black Ops specialist who hung up the hi-tech weaponry after faking his own death in order to live as a big-box home improvement store employee and part-time mentor to people in the workplace and Boston neighborhood. However, he finds his former life bubbling up when he gets motivated in an effort to try to rescue a reluctant teenage prostitute named Teri (Moretz, If I Stay) from continued abuse at the hands of her ruthless Russian pimp and his gang.  That move only brings unwanted attention from the crime syndicate higher ups, who send out their finisher in the form of trained assassin Teddy (Csokas, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For) to settle the score once and for all.

For those who want to see a latter-day Liam Neeson thriller play out with Denzel Washington as the lead, you have your movie in The Equalizer. Washington joins forces with his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua, who delivers the highly explosive action and visual panache you'd expect, even if the nuts and bolts of the movie are derivative and cartoonish. With an actor of lesser pedigree, The Equalizer could have felt much more schlocky than it already is, which is plenty, but Washington lends his role the gravitas necessary to command attention whenever he's front and center, which is most of the time.  It's pure Eastwood-ian bad-assery, where the seemingly invincible Bob always seems to have the upper hand against some fairly dastardly adversaries, but the formula works.  You almost feel bad for cheering during some fairly heinous acts of violence.

Unfortunately, with the exception of a menacingly hammy Marton Csokas as Bob's main nemesis, and Melissa Leo (Prisoners) in a miniscule supporting role, most of the secondary cast is either weak or forgettable. Chloe Grace Moretz would initially appear promising, but she's relegated to a supporting role that doesn't ask much out of an actress of her distinction.  The same can be said for Bill Pullman (Scary Movie 4), in a role that one gets the feeling largely ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor.

The Equalizer may turn off those who abhor gratuitous violence. The fights are brutal and bloody, with lots of slashing and impaling, particularly during the finale set in the warehouse of handy weaponry known as the hardware section of the fictional big box store, Home Mart.  Also in the negative column, at 132 minutes, this film is far too long for something that delivers just-watchable-enough goods, and the exciting climax seems to go on interminably as we try, often in vain, to see what's going on during the dark and bloody hand-to-hand confrontations. 

Man on Fire
did sickening acts of brutality better, of course, but if that one proves too dark and heavy for you, this is the kind of low-overhead, excess-titillation vigilantism you might be seeking.

Qwipster's rating:

2014 Vince Leo