Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Review of THE EQUALIZER: Psychologically Violent

October 7, 2014

This film is based so loosely from the 1980s TV series starring Edward Woodward as Robert McCall, an ex-agent who helped poor individuals who have no one else to turn to in their crime-related problems. But the McCall here is no dapper English gentleman. Instead, he (Denzel Washington) is a genial employee of a Home Depot-type warehouse store who kept pretty much to himself. 

One day, he meets and befriends a teenage prostitute (Chloe Grace Moretz) at his usual dining place. When she had been beaten up by the Russian mobsters who handled her, McCall gets shaken out of his neat little routines, and an unparalleled killer of immeasurable resourcefulness and mad skills gets unleashed to champion the cause of the helpless.

This is another oft-told tale in Hollywood these days, an ex-CIA agent with superhuman abilities saving the day for some damsel in distress. We have seen this story over and over in different incarnations in various action films with Liam Neeson, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, or other lesser known actors. With "The Equalizer" though, we are given Denzel Washington in the lead role, working with the same man who directed him to his Best Actor Oscar for "Training Day" back in 2001, Antoine Fuqua. There are higher expectations here.

The action sequences are well-planned and orchestrated, but I can't really say they are all that original. They are of extraordinary violence and gore, I'd give them that, hence the local R-16 rating. The whole "seeing small details around him while planning an attack" routine has been done before, and with much more logic, in the Sherlock Holmes films. The whole climactic "walking away from a series of big fiery explosions behind the hero" gimmick is practically a staple in countless A, B or C level action films before this one.

For me, the best scene in the whole film was actually not an action scene. It was the one where McCall had a serious face-to-face encounter with the vicious Russian gang leader, Teddy (Marton Csokas). That scene was one tense mind game where McCall exposes the weaknesses of his enemy using verbal intimidation alone. That was an exciting psy battle of wits at its best, better than all the shootouts and fights in the film. 

Denzel Washington did not exactly look like he had the right physical look to realistically convince me that he could do the stunts McCall was doing. However, in these intense face-to-face confrontation scenes, you know he is the type who could psych you out crazy even with his penetrating stare alone. This psychological dimension is what gives "The Equalizer" an edge over all the other run-of-the-mill action thrillers with the same basic story. 6/10.

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