A feature length remake of the 1980’s series, The Equalizer is a punchy thriller with real bite.
Denzel Washington replaces Edward Woodward as Robert McCall, a seemingly normal and gentle man who works in a hardware store and lives life with an OCD level of precision. Harbouring a secret past that he thought he had left behind, this all changes when he meets young prostitute Teri.
Whilst trying to inspire her to change her life things take a turn when she is left hospitalised after a beating from her pimp. Against his better judgement, McCall takes matters into his own hands and soon becomes embroiled in something much larger than a prostitution ring.
Hunted by the Russian mafia, he must utilise the skills he’s learnt from his previous life as well as everyday DIY tools to survive.
What could have made for another mindless action film, The Equalizer has a bit more going on beneath the surface. Going for the slow build as opposed to all guns blazing, the script by Richard Wenk is interested in developing character and story as well as providing thrills, made abundantly clear by its lack of explosions (in this case one).
Whilst it isn’t anywhere near as deep as it thinks it is, and the films final act becomes increasingly absurd, its attempts of being different and layering the film with themes of morality are admirable at the very least.
What’s particularly interesting is how the dark underworld drips into familiar everyday settings, with murders taking place in suburbia as neighbours put the bins out and the films finale taking place in a hardware store.
For all of its violent realism, something apparently the original show did very well, the film feels more like a superhero origin story without a cape or cowl. Much like Batman, our hero here pulls back the veil on a corrupt city, hates using a gun and spends his nights saving innocent people whilst at day he plays the average Joe. There’s so many similarities that by the end of the film when our lead villian yells “Who are you?”, you’re half expecting the response to be “I’m Batman”.
What really elevates the whole thing is of course Denzel Washington, and his reserved coolness and charisma makes the film extremely watchable. Also great is Marton Csokas as the leading villain Teddy, a character as intelligent and skilled in murder as our protagonist. The scenes between the two have a real energy and are amongst the best in the picture despite being far too brief.
With a great directorial styling from Antoine Fuqua who seems invigorated after playing it safe with Olympus Has Fallen, the film has a nice visual stamp which makes it stand out from the crowd as well as a particularly unrelenting and squirm inducing portrayal of violence.
Whilst it’s twenty minutes too long and there’s an incredible lack of strong female characters, The Equalizer is for the most part an above average action thriller. There’s been better this year but there’s been worse too, but with Washington’s lead performance and some great action sequences this is a worthwhile trip to the cinema.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com