Three and half of Five stars
When a movie makes overweight and stuttering guys working at your local Home Depot stroll the aisles with John Shaft-styled swagger, you know you need to investigate. The Equalizer, taken from the premise of the 80’s TV show of the same name, has had that effect. Most importantly it is a compelling enough vehicle that allows 60 year-old Washington to kick some ass without falling into the over-the-top, steroid-driven lunacy of The Expendables.
Denzel’s former covert assassin turned-guardian angel Robert McCall moves with a sense of nuance that would have been lost in the brisk-paced Safe House or overwhelmed by the macho posturing of Training Day. This works to the strengths of the character and director Antoine Fuqua (who also directed Training Day). McCall has a laser-sharp accuracy in detecting threats, an accuracy so fine-tuned it can come down to the twitch of a Russian’s eyebrow. Be it a corkscrew or a mallet, nothing is beyond McCall’s Mac-Guyver-like resourcefulness. This is highlighted through Fuqua’s penchant for making even the most grisly scenes violence into a ballet of slow motion movement at martial arts-like angles.
McCall keeps a low-profile as an unassuming employee of Homemart, an emporium similar to Home Depot. He moves with the cheerfulness of a retiree looking to keep himself busy and connected with the world through a part-time job. His co-workers sense a troubled past, one McCall keeps out of reach with a helpfulness that seems to save himself as much as those he reaches out to assist. Things get heated when a local call-girl befriends him and is attacked by her Russian pimp. The pimp refuses McCall’s humble offer to pay for her freedom. The result: an intelligent, unusually detailed kind of hell breaks loose.
The Equalizer does fall victim in a few respects. McCall’s quiet demeanor keeps his past from reaching the melodramatic and tortured, comic book variety many come to expect for an action film these days. His resolve blends into the muted and bleak-colored environs of working class Boston and can make action-film audiences feel as if they were hoodwinked into watching a movie they had not come to see. As the plot thickens, on the other hand, there are the cliché s of the hero’s slow-motioned strut as vehicles explode behind him.
The final showdown is a bit gratuitous – and yet pretty much what you find that you’ve been waiting for all along. At the very best, the movie keeps Washington in shape for talk of his chances of being the first black 007. In the meantime. The Equalizer, in its own right, is a sure shot for Denzel to finally have his own franchise. McCall wields the needed charisma when necessary.
And with ISIS, Ebola and who knows what else around the corner, the sooner he decides to take off his Homemart apron again to handle some more business, the better.