Denzel Washington is back with a vengeance in Antoine Fuqua’s character-driven action-thriller The Equalizer, and if you’re a bad guy the message is clear: don’t run afoul of this vigilante…because it’s the last thing you’ll ever do.
The film stars Washington as Robert McCall, a former black ops commando who faked his death to live a quiet life in Boston. When he comes out of his self-imposed retirement to rescue a young girl called Teri, he finds himself face-to-face with ultra-violent Russian gangsters. As he serves justice out those who brutalise the helpless, McCalls’s desire for justice is reawakened. If some had a problem, the odds stacked against them, and they have nowhere else to turn, McCall will help. He is The Equalizer.
Director Antoine Fuqua has crafted a terrific action-thriller which starts off as a slow boil before exploding into full on war. Working from the standpoint of story and character first, Fuqua takes the time to develop his lead character Robert McCall (Denzel Washington), and the world he inhabits. The Equalizer never wastes a beat though. with every frame powering the story forward. Style is also placed next to pacing, and The Equalizer has the feel of the sort of action thriller that harkens back to the film works of the 1970s such as ‘Bullet’, ‘The French Connection’ and ‘Get Carter’. Fuqua builds an intimacy for his audience with McCall’s larger than life heroics, and they’ll find themselves cheering for him when he takes down the bad guys.
As always, Denzel Washington completely commands the screen as the former super spy assassin. A modern day ronin, McCall has left behind his world of violence and death for peace and obscurity, valuing nothing except the right to be left alone, dedicating his life to an almost monastic ritual of simplicity and rhythm. Washington easily portrays McCall’s dual identity as forgettable everyman, and modern day samurai, as well as having a handle on the sadness that permeates his character. Washington’s patience also informs the character of McCall, especially when it comes to the horrible things he’s forced to witness, and his inability at first not to act. This eats away at him, and when the violence does come he delivers it back ten-fold with absolute assertiveness and brutality. In control of the situation at all times, McCall will give you the opportunity to do good, but if you choose otherwise, well…prepare for very quick and violent consequences.
Chloe Grace Moretz’s Teri is the innocent who calls out to McCall’s hero for help. A victim of human traffickers and who was forced into prostitution, Teri is the young ingénue who desperately wants a chance at a different life. Filled with teenage angst, she is slightly standoffish at first to McCall, but is curious about this mysterious loner whom she meets at the late night diner that they both frequent. She slowly gets to know him, and forms a friendship with a man who is non-judgmental, and encourages her to change her life for the better. Moretz gives another fantastic performance, and holds her own during the scenes she shares with Washington, which gradually grow more heartfelt as she learns of the reasons behind his sadness. The brutality that is leveled against her will enrage audience members, and they’ll really be gunning for McCall to avenge her.
Every hero needs a monster, and Marton Csokas is perfect as brutal Russian mob fixer Teddy. Teddy is described as ‘a sociopath with a business card’ whose job it is to use extreme terror and sadism to protect his criminal organisation’s interests. A former Spetznaz operative, Teddy is McCall’s dark shadow come to life, and the two play an increasingly dangerous game of cat and mouse. Csokas is terrifying as Teddy, switching in an instant from refined and dapper to an unrelenting psychotic who’ll tear anyone apart. Devoid of all emotion, he has no qualms about the violence he employs everyday to get the job done. One of the best scenes of the film comes in a certain ‘meeting of the minds’ between these two adversaries, and it’s absolutely chilling to watch.
The Equalizers’ supporting cast are also great, both heroic and villainous. On the heroic side you have Melissa Leo as McCall’s former handler Susan Plummer, whom he turns to for information, as well as Bill Pullman as her husband Brian. The bad guys also have a great supporting cast including David Harbour as Masters, a corrupt police detective, David Meunier as vicious pimp Slavi, Johnny Messner as a hired hitman, and Dan Bilzerian as a member of Teddy’s Serbian mercenary team who are brought in to deal with McCall.
While The Equalizer focuses its attention on story and character when the action does come, it’s unflinching in its brutality. McCall is an expert, and he wastes no time going to work on the bad guys, tearing them apart in quick, calculated succession. The film’s most memorable battle takes place in a hardware store that McCall transforms into a death chamber. It’s definitely not for the squeamish, and will make you look twice at power drills and garden shears.
The Equalizer is an absolute must-see for film fans, thanks to a director and cast at the top of their game, not to mention a story filled with action, drama and honour.
Image source: Roadshow Films.