Wednesday, September 24, 2014

“The Equalizer”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a New York Times Film Club screening of “The Equalizer”, a crime thriller starring Denzel Washington. 


Russian mobsters seek revenge against a man who single-handedly ruined their business – but when they learn that he may be more dangerous than they are, whose life may be more in danger?


Robert McCall (Washington) is something of a nondescript man who lives a simple life alone in his modest East Boston apartment, working in the warehouse of a home improvement supplier.  To his co-workers, however, he is a man of mystery because his background is a bit unclear – and as far as McCall is concerned, he’s just fine keeping it that way.  Recently, he’s made the acquaintance of Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young woman who aspires to be a singer – but until her career takes off, she has to make a living in a considerably less glamorous profession, working as a prostitute. 

When McCall learns that Teri has been hospitalized as the result of a beating from her pimp, McCall takes vengeance by killing him and several of his associates.  Although McCall thinks that all problems have been solved by this, he soon learns that his troubles are just beginning.  The escort service is owned by a wealthy and influential Russian mobster named Pushkin who runs a crime syndicate involved in variegated illegal businesses.  This causes Pushkin to send Teddy (Marton Csokas), his main troubleshooter, to Boston to fix the problem – in this case, finding McCall and killing him.

Upon investigation of the situation, Teddy is surprised to learn that the entire source of the grief comes from McCall, apparently acting independently in a vigilante-like role.  Trying to intimidate McCall, Teddy soon finds that this man isn’t so easy to scare, even though he’s seemingly on his own.  After conferring with some former colleagues who previously worked in a law enforcement branch of the federal government, McCall finally understands just who Teddy is and exactly how far this crime network extends.  Armed with this new information, McCall sets out not only to defeat Teddy but also to destroy the entire gang of mobsters.  But when Teddy kidnaps several of McCall’s co-workers, will he be able to confront Teddy without endangering the hostages?


Well, let’s just put it this way:  if you’re looking for a simple-minded action thriller starring one of America’s most popular movie stars, then look no further, “The Equalizer” is for you.  On the other hand, if you’ve been hoping for a movie version of an old television series from the 1980’s with one of the country’s best actors, then allow me to completely dash your hopes.  The original TV show was considerably better and more clever than this cinematic reboot; the material isn’t up to star Denzel Washington, who does his best with a rather uninspired script. 

“The Equalizer” isn’t much helped by director Antoine Fuqua’s choices, either.  Fuqua, who worked with Denzel Washington on “Training Day”, tries to suggest action by quickly cutting from shots before we’ve had a chance to see what he presumably wanted us to see.  Add to that the frequent extreme close-ups of Washington’s eyes (one would guess to show his intensity) and slow-motion fire sprinklers to enhance dramatic effect during a confrontation near the end of the movie, and it’s pretty clear he’s trying to dazzle the audience with stunning visual images to take our attention away from a screenplay that lacks substance. 

This movie turned out to be a major disappointment which is why I can’t recommend you see it in the theater.  At a little over two hours, its plodding pace makes it feel much longer; after the first hour, I started checking my watch a few times.  Also, it’s not anywhere near as much fun a film such as this one is supposed to be.  The TV series on which it was based was intelligent and unusually well-written for television from that time; the cinematic version, unfortunately, comes nowhere near this level of quality.  This being a motion picture produced by Sony, the one thing they did manage to get right was the product placement of a Vaio laptop used by the protagonist.   


The Equalizer (2014) on IMDb


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