It was easy to forget that the new Denzel Washington movie, The Equalizer, was based on an old television series. Yeah, the plot was similar with Washington’s Robert McCall setting out to help those people who can’t help themselves, but the way that Antoine Fuqua directed the movie made it easy to get lost in the world of Robert McCall. While I heard a few people complaining about the movie when they left, the majority of the audience cheered in the right spots and The Equalizer is easily one of the better crowd pleasing movies of the year.
Robert McCall is a former black ops’ soldier, a man who is an expert at killing, no matter the numbers against him and no matter what weapons he has at his disposal. However, he has been retired for many years, faking his own death with a car bomb and then moving on to a new peaceful life as an employee of a Home Depot styled store. Things change when he meets a young girl who works as a hooker for some Russian mafia members.
The two share quiet moments in a corner diner, where Robert reads books and she drinks a lot of sugar while waiting for her latest trick to arrive. She is not the hooker with a heart of gold that many movies like to throw out there, she is just a girl who feels there is no escape and no better life for her to move onto. When she is brutally beaten and hospitalized by her pimp for fighting back when a john hits her, Robert heads back into action.
By the time the Russian cleaner Teddy (Martin Csokas) shows up, the bodies have started piling up as Robert has moved on from avenging the hooker to helping anyone else who needs it, which included influencing two crooked cops to return extortion money they have been stealing. However, Teddy works for a high level Russian mafia lord who has operations all over the United States and has everyone from the police to politicians in his pocket. What Robert has going for him is that no one knows who he used to be.
I understand the people who dismiss this, as most of the complaints I have heard, and read, come from film critics and film snobs. But, honestly, this is a movie that will attract the mainstream audience more than a person looking for a lot of substance under the violence. That is not to say there is not substance. The books that Robert reads are classics listed as the 100 books everyone needs to read. He wants to read them because his wife, who died years before, was reading the list but never finished.
When the movie starts, Robert is reading “The Old Man and the Sea,” a book about someone who has been searching for something his entire life and finally catches it at the end. The last book he is reading is “The Invisible Man.” Both of those books really showcase the points in his life that Robert finds himself at in the movie.
However, where this movie really excels is through Denzel Washington’s performance. Antoine Fuqua directed Washington to an Oscar with Training Day as Denzel played a man as evil as any you will see. However, in The Equalizer, Denzel is able to really play a different role. He is a stone cold killer and actually seems to get off in staring into the eyes of the men he killed as they are dying. However, he is also one of the kindest, considerate men you will see in a movie.
Robert helps an overweight co-worker get into shape so he can pass the tests to become a security guard. He helps the hooker because, as he said, sometimes you see someone get hurt who doesn’t deserve it and you have to do something about it. Through the entire movie, Fuqua was able to balance out Robert’s kindness with his ruthlessness in a way to make sure he never loses your support regardless of what he does. Plus, Washington is completely captivating the entire movie and just owns the screen through the entire running time of the movie.
Fuqua also uses a lot of tricks and special techniques in the movie. He often sends the camera into Robert’s eyes and then shows the room and surroundings as he sees them. Then, in mere seconds, Robert is able to decipher what he needs to do and then kills everyone of his targets with precision and almost no damage to himself. When he finally meets his equal in Teddy, Robert has proven how bad of a man he is and the big finale is set up perfectly.
I also want to touch on how great the music score is. Harry Gregson-Williams (Man on Fire) created a fantastic action score that harkens to the work of Trent Reznor, and that is truly the best compliment I can give to a man. That final action sequence where the Russian mafia comes after Robert is scored perfectly.
By the end of the movie, it is hard to leave The Equalizer without a smile on their face. Sure, film snobs might turn their nose up at a movie that is mainly about an action movie like this, but Denzel Washington raises this movie to another level and makes this one of the best crowd pleasing movies in theaters right now.