The Equalizer – Film Review

Denzel Washington goes on a righteous rampage in Antoine Fuqua's vigilante thriller

Denzel Washington turns ruthless vigilante starring as ex-CIA agent Robert McCall in director Antoine ‘Training Day‘ Fuqua’s big screen reboot of the ’80s TV show. We meet McCall living a quiet life working in a hardware superstore after faking his own death to get away from the violence and betrayal of his former career as a special ops ghost. But when he meets a call girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) at a diner and learns of the beatings she suffers at the hands of sadistic Russian pimps, the memory kicks in and he readies himself to right the wrong in jaw-droppingly violent style. Delivering death by corkscrew in a sequence where he massacres five tattooed heavies McCall’s actions are the start of a Rambo-like quest to bring criminals to justice.

Echoing the tag line of the original TV show (“Odds against you? Nowhere to turn?”) but set against a backdrop of bent Boston cops and petty thieves, McCall puts down his classic novels and starts looking for people to help. This usually involves his Jason Bourne-like ass kicking skills and the odd sledgehammer. Washington’s steely gaze is perfect for a McCall re-imagined as a coiled spring of anger ready to visit the wrath of retribution. He’s been here before with Man on Fire but this character is more of a comic book hero in a franchise in the making than the doomed assassin who saves Dakota Fanning in late director Tony Scott’s 2004 film.

McCall’s quest triggers the wrath of a fearsome Russian oligarch who sends his fixer Teddy to find out who is threatening his money laundering business. But there;s nothing cuddly about the oligarch’s chilling hit man (brilliantly played by Marton Csokas) who warns: “I am a threat. I alter outcomes.” It’s an enjoyable game of cat and mouse as Teddy’s heavies are outwitted by McCall’s guerrilla tactics. Fuqua can’t resist a nod to 90s high concept action thrillers by having his hero walk away from a massive explosion with his back to the flames – in slow motion.

In one scene cardboard henchman are dispatched with a ruthless efficiency reminiscent of Tobe Hooper’s schlock horror The Toolbox Murders. McCall executes the bad guys in a DIY-style with barbed wired booby-traps, a drill and a microwave gas canister bomb. Vigilantes are de rigeur thanks to Liam Neeson’s Taken escapades and this origin story is clearly looking to expand. However, a formulaic final act shows the limitations of Fuqua’s vision as McCall’s near indestructible force becomes laughable. The laughs might be tongue in cheek but you get the feeling that’s not what the filmmakers were trying to achieve.