Movie Review: THE EQUALIZER (2014) – Origin-less Heroes Becoming A Thing?
Highly stylized action movies with main characters that don’t have a clear origin story seem to be becoming a thing. After ‘John Wick‘, where the character’s entire origin is narrated off screen by another character, ‘The Equalizer‘ is the next movie to do something similar. A vigilante story at heart, the film marks Denzel Washington’s first successful attempt at a franchise, given the sequel that is most likely being made. A slick yet very held back action movie tells an ordinary story but with some flair and minor setbacks. Check out my Movie Review of ‘The Equalizer‘ and let me know what you thought of this movie in the comments below.
Based on a 1989 CBS show by the same name, ‘The Equalizer’ sees Denzel Washington playing Robert, a former spy with a very mysterious past. Living a routined life as a widower, Robert gets tangled into a fray as he attempts to help a young girl whom he grew to be well acquainted with. The story is about how this quiet man inadvertantly ends up taking on a large part of the underworld in his attempts to keep that girl safe. The story never once delves into the details or back story about this highly skilled killer, but the cinematic experience is that much better for it. Without much exposition or revelations regarding Robert’s origins, the story can remain focused on the present and develop the story better. This very same thing also negatively impacts the film however, as the character never has any personal stake in the story, beyond the ‘good samaritan’ good guy routine that we’ve seen repeatedly. This detachment prevents any emotional investment in the character, beyond adrenaline pumping cheering at the subtle badassery that Washington does so very well.
Co-starring Chloe Grace-Moretz as the girl whose life is changed upon meeting Robert, Washington gives a more restraint performance than his string of bad movies in the recent past. Though portraying a character whose past life easily makes him the kind of typical ‘bad-ass’ that Washington has essayed before, Robert is characterized as a counter point to that; more reserved and regimented, and not overtly charming. Washington is able to enhance the character with his own self aware nature that draws the audience in as much during the slow dialogue-less scenes, as during the full on intense action set pieces. Even though Washington emotes very well in scenes where he is by himself, and never stalls the forward movement of the story, he is at his best when interacting with others, be it neutral supporting characters, or the straight up antagonists, however those scenes are few and far in between.
Director Antoine Fuqua has had a sort of hit-and-miss career that catapulted to fame after directing Washington to Oscar glory in ‘Training Day‘. Since then, Fuqua has had interesting projects with named stars, and while ‘The Equalizer‘ brings back his A-game, the movie isn’t nearly as polished or taut as his other work. The climax is an example of underwhelming writing and a poor resolution to the over all story set up through out the film. There are also elements of the film that play out too much like a procedural, seeing perspectives of the bad guys as they dish out punishment for betrayals and other clichéd plot points, that fully prevent this movie from being a bare knuckled drag out action movie.
While not Fuqua’s best, ‘The Equalizer‘ is one of Denzel Washington’s finer works in recent times, and the action choreography is interesting and engaging to watch. The anticipation of a sequel or franchise makes the film that much more interesting, and it definitely will be a much talked about franchise if it gets to that.