Not to long ago, I wrote an article about 4 movies that probably aren’t on your radar. The Equalizer is the first film on that list to be released. The Equalizer is Denzel Washington’s take into what I think most people are comfortable labeling as Liam Neeson Movie Territory. The old and battered ex solider/secret agent who can still dish out huge amounts of damage if the situation calls for it. While Liam Neeson might be currently basking in this light, Denzel has been there before with movies like Man on Fire or the Book of Eli.
This films celebrates the reunion of Denzel Washington with the Director that finally landed him an Oscar, Antonie Fuqua. The story follows Robert McHall who is a retired and widowed. As such he lives a very quiet and solitary life. He suffers from insomnia, often electing to spend his evenings at a local diner reading and drinking coffee. Soon he finds himself in situations that he realizes he can be of help and elects to no longer take a back seat.
The first few minutes of the film, one thing is made abundantly clear. Robert is a loner, he is also very organized and meticulous in his activities. He sits at the same both every night, he places the fork and knife a certain way on the table. All this is done to illustrate just how rigid of a character he is mechanically. This is fine because we learn soon after that this doesn’t affect his socializing with other people. While the list of people he interacts with is short, you get an immediate sense that he does care about those relationships. He only really socializes with his co-workers at a local Home Depot type of store. They show a great deal of love and respect for him, but know nothing of his pass. He jokes with some co-workers that he use to be a pip, a backup dancer on the TV soul train. He even gets them to buy into it when he bust out some smooth dance moves (+1 Denzel). Other than them, he becomes friends with a under-age Russian prostitute portrayed by Chloe Grace Moretz. She frequents the diner every night like he does.
One night she doesn’t come to the diner, her Russian pump beat her right into the hospital. This is when Robert elects to take matters into his own hands. He attempts to first purchase her freedom from her Russian Pimp. His last attempt to remain non violent about the issue, but he is mocked and refused. For a moment Robert considers leaving but finally decides enough is enough and goes with plan B. He kills the Russian gangster and all of his associates that unfortunately for them were present. This is when the movie becomes a game of cat and mouse. Robert didn’t just happen to dispatch some random street thugs, but high-ranking members of the Russian Cartel. They can’t let this slight go unpunished so they send their best and absolute meanest man to investigate and retaliate accordingly. That man is Teddy and devilishly portrayed by Marton Csokas. It doesn’t take you long to realize this guy is the real deal and you’ll route against him easily enough.
So what makes this movie good? You’ve seen this before , if there any reason to go to yet another one of these? I would say plenty. This movie has alot of things going for it, but the most refreshing thing about it that I noticed, Quiet. This film has an incredible sense of quiet. Normally these movies get louder by the minute, with the main character displaying more and more abilities that border disbelief. This is something action movies hang their hats on, ending with a bang! Faqua takes a different approach, which is supported beautifully by the acting chops of Denzel and Marton. He supports this quiet in alot of ways, two of which are the most obvious. The first is that Denzel doesn’t speak much, and even when he does its very potent conversation. He doesn’t really get off the subject matter at hand. He is obsessed with time, getting things done (including dispatching bad guys) as quickly as possible. The second of which is how he tries to deal with the action, often electing not to show entire scenes of action. Just instead choosing to show us the aftermath. This probably sounds like a movie sin to most, but it’s tastefully done. There is plenty of action to go around, and it’s very gruesome when it does go down.
Probably my favorite scene of the movie plays with this fact. After Robert has dealt with a bunch of Russian baddys already. Teddy calls in some heavy hitters, guys he knows can deal with the situation. One of the guys he calls in looks bad from head to toe. He has a fresh suit on, think shades, tattoos , etc.. the whole nine yards. He come into the scene as Teddy is finishing briefing the guy, the guy gets up from the dinner table and says “I’ll take care of it”. For a moment I looked forward to how this guy is going to try and “deal with it”. A minute later Robert comes up to Teddy at his dinner table. He throws a broken pair of shades on the table as he sits down and calmly says “He isn’t coming back”. I got a rush from this, I kind of let my imagination do the work.
Denzel’s character is really refreshing in his own sort of way. My biggest fear for this movie coming in was that Robert would be very anti social. He doesn’t let anyone in or out and some how Chloe Grace Moretz character would be the only person to “understand” him and get him to reach out. I find this to be a really tired meme in Hollywood. To be fair, Chloe isn’t in his movie much at all. After she ends up in the hospital you don’t see her again to the closing scene. Robert is guarded sure, but he isn’t locked out from all human interaction. His ability to interact with good people and bad people is what makes it so much fun. The violence is very believable as well. Robert doesn’t have any Steven Seigal -ish karate moves, often electing instead to use things around him with deadly implications. The final scene takes place in a home depot and it’s very fun to see Robert change a bunch of house hold items into deadly weapons. Lastly, the most refreshing thing about the character is how terrifying he is at times during the movie. He isn’t just a knight in shiny armor, he is rather a bull dog. A bull dog who actually likes the taste of blood. There are very subtle and quiet moments where you can tell “Wow… he is enjoying this”. It feels a lot of like the character Huck from Scandal.
The movie is very good. While it garnered some Oscar buzz becomes of the actor/director combo. I wouldn’t put it on that level, especially when compared to the work Denzel just did in the movie Flight. It’s probably the best B movie action/thriller of the year though, which is pretty good. Excellent character dialogue and above action sequences makes this a fine addition to Faqua’s resume.