The last time that he worked with director Antoine Fuqua, Denzel Washington walked away with Best Actor Oscar gold for his role as Detective Alonzo Harris in “Training Day”. The chances of Denzel pulling that feat off again with his latest Fuqua team-up are probably best described as “slim to none”, but that doesn’t mean that “The Equalizer” isn’t any good.
In “The Equalizer”, the only calming influence is Denzel’s Robert McCall. Robert seems like a boring man, living in Boston and working at some sort of knock-off Home Depot. Of course, all the obvious, blatant foreshadowing elements are there. When his alarm goes off at 7:30 am, Robert is already awake and shaving his immaculately bald head. When he can’t sleep, Robert goes to the same diner on the same corner, meticulously arranges his silverware, then proceeds to sip tea and quietly read.
All of this is done to show that this is a deeply troubled fella that is trying to wash away his past. Everything comes flooding back when Robert gets involved with a young hooker, Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz). Teri likes to frequent the same diner as Robert and the two bond over his love of books, leading to a fantastic interpretation of “The Old Man and the Sea” by Robert.
Once Teri winds up taking a severe beating by the hands of her sleazy Russian mobster pimp, Robert decides that he just can’t take it anymore and he decides to try and buy Teri’s freedom. Naturally, the Eurotrash gangsters don’t go for it and Robert persuades them differently.
Little does Robert know that his act of savagely killing half a dozen Russian thugs would start an all out war in the streets of Boston. It turns out that Robert unknowingly took out a large chunk of a particular crime group based in Russia and they are none too pleased about their business being interrupted.
This is when Teddy (Marton Csokas), a smooth talking, sharply dressed, tattoo-covered sociopath, is sent in to clean up the mess and find out who took all these guys down. Teddy, like Robert, is also very quiet and calm, never raising his voice, which makes him the perfect foil for Robert since they are so very much alike.
Once Robert realizes the levels of crime and corruption involved with these Russian crazies, he doesn’t run away. Instead, he goes full vigilante and decides that he’s not going to stop at helping Teri. He’s going to clean up the entire city simply because, well, he feels that if you can do something to stop evil then you should.
“The Equalizer” is loaded with stylized violence, the kind that Antoine Fuqua really has become adept at capturing. The brutality is in your face and never watered down, even though Denzel’s Robert never once actually fires a gun. Time after time, Fuqua shows Denzel in slow motion, either simply walking or as he annihilates several men in a matter of seconds.
Those seconds are shown in quite a clever way. Fuqua employs some quick cuts of Denzel’s Robert assessing situations, his eyes darting around, collecting information and estimating how long it will take him to eliminate a threat based on the number of men, how they are armed, and the potential items in a room that he’s going to use as weapons.
There aren’t many scenes in “The Equalizer” without Denzel Washington. Those without him mostly feature Marton Csokas and, even though he’s been impressive in other movies, this is his most chilling performance to date. The fact that Csokas is so charming makes him a fantastic villain that you love to hate. The few moments he shares onscreen with Denzel are the highlights of the movie as you are watching two serious acting heavyweights go at it.
One day, Denzel Washington will not be good in a movie. Or not. If Denzel can star in a movie like this and make it entertaining, he truly is one of the greatest actors to ever walk the Earth. This is nothing more than a basic revenge movie, much like “Man On Fire”, but he is such a commanding presence, such a charismatic star, that even with familiar material, he completely owns it.
Even when Denzel does the clichéd slow motion walk as things explode behind him, he looks cool. He looks cool stirring his tea. He looks cool operating a saw while he cuts plywood. The guy oozes coolness at every turn and “The Equalizer” is fully worth seeing just because of Denzel.
If “The Equalizer” performs well in the box office, there will most definitely be another one. In fact, Columbia Pictures has already put the wheels in motion for a sequel. This could be a fun film series for Denzel to star in, as long as he takes time in between killing criminals with shot glasses to make some more thought provoking movies.