The Equalizer

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Denzel Washington in The Equalizer, which will open San Sebastian Film Festival.
"Now it's Denzel Washington's turn, which means this is serious and requires a smart turn out at all times and a watch that goes 'bleep'."

When Bruce Willis did this sort of thing, he wore a wry smile and a vest. Now it's Denzel Washington's turn, which means this is serious and requires a smart turn out at all times and a watch that goes 'bleep'.

He plays Robert McCall in this Richard Wenk adaptation of the Eighties TV series that starred Edward Woodward. The script is workmanlike enough but does little more than successfully join the dots between familiar plot points, involving McCall coming out of some sort of self-enforced retirement from a job that is never fully outlined but that has taught him to dispatch people both dispassionately and inventfully. The reason he reverts to Killing Machine type is that he is enraged at the treatment of a hooker with a heart he sometimes chats to over late night book reading sessions in his local diner.

Early investigations uncover nasty goings on with the local police force and a Russian mob operation that he begins to pick off one by one, often in outrageous ways, all the time circling closer to Teddy, a Russian enforcer. Teddy is the 'perfect' sort of villain for this piece, ticking boxes including, sociopath, Russian and with a decent trace of a posh English accent. He's played by Marton Csokas, channelling Kevin Spacey. The plot is well worn but it is directed and shot with a considerable amount of style - and an awful lot of rain - by Antoine Fuqua and his long-time cinematographer Mauro Fiore. Fuqua indulges in the violence and occasionally gets carried away with the look. When McCall first offs a string of bad guys, he approaches it initially in the manner of Robert Downey Junior's Sherlock - a device that is used once for kicks and then quickly forgotten as Fuqua wallows in the grisly cut and thrust and, just in case we missed anything, shows us pictures of the men as mush later.

There are some clever abbreviated scenes that indicate McCall has been out fighting evil without us being privvy to them and Fuqua also uses the sound design to help mount tension. The biggest problem is that McCall seems invincible from the off, which means that without the real fear of him losing his life, Wenk and Fuqua have to fall back on increasingly bizarre manners of death in order to hold our interest. As for the hooker - played with decent vulnerability by the ever-reliable Chloe Grace Moretz - she is all but forgotten about until being called upon for plot resolution.

Fuqua pushes close to parody in a scene in which Teddy's tattoos are gradually revealed in the manner of a pop video and some of the ridiculous facial hair of his henchmen seems more designed to mark them out in semi-darkness than for any other reason. Washington, as always, holds the attention, finding in McCall a vulnerability that goes beyond the script's lip service, but this is likely to linger in your mind about as long as your popcorn lingers in its box.

Reviewed on: 19 Sep 2014
Share this with others on...
A former commando comes out of retirement to rescue a teenage hooker from the Russian mafia in New York.
Amazon link

Read more The Equalizer reviews:

Angus Wolfe Murray *1/2

Festivals:

SSFF 2014

Search database: