A former agent gets pulled back into a world of violence when he tries to help a young woman in need.
The Equalizer borrows its name from the 1980s TV show starring The Wicker Man’s Edward Woodward but that’s basically it. Otherwise this is a film about how super cool Denzel Washington is and how he’ll murder you in the face if you’re a bad guy.
Which is fine, Denzel Washington is super cool and bad guys deserve to be face murdered but you can easily ignore any relationship to the original show. Instead, you should prepare yourself for something of a character piece with occasional bursts of really quite explicit violence.
The Equalizer is a deliberately paced film. Denzel doesn’t get down to the killing for a good 40 minutes and there are only a handful of more high octane moments throughout. Arguably, that makes them more punchy when they do arrive but at 131 minutes I did start to feel the length as we finished out our second hour.
Thankfully there’s plenty to enjoy, mainly due to the main man himself. Washington has the faux everyman down by now, the big gregarious fellow who does a good job of seeming like he could fit in with the plebs but it always feels like an act for the cameras. In this role, that actually makes a certain amount of sense but I still couldn’t help feeling like he was doing his co-stars a favour by appearing with them.
He’s just extremely conspicuous for a former special secret whatever agent. He’s tall and broad and sometimes dances during his job at Home Mart – a generic homewares store which becomes oddly important to the story. He reads the great American novels alone at night in a diner. He’s a walking cliché.
The main plotline involves Chloe Moretz’s rarely appearing prostitute but there’s also a glut of other material, including an overweight friend he’s trying to help out and a secondary strand where Melissa Leo and Bill Pullman show up. It’s all a bit too stodgy, and detracts from what could have been a nice lean flick.
That said, director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen) has a sense of style and goes to town on the action sequences. They’re full of slow motion and a nice sense of geography, focussing on one skilled attacker taking out lots of enemies. They’re fun, fluid and really quite abrasively violent at times. Which I very much enjoyed. This comes to full fruition during a trap-setting finale that will satisfy any bloodlust.
Washington’s McCall is enjoyable to watch, there’s a decent baddie and enough brutal kills to go around. You’ll have to decide if that’s worth wading through the flabby running time and extraneous characters but I for one found it all surprisingly entertaining.