Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Equalizer: Movie Review

The Equalizer: Movie Review

Cast: Denzel Washington, Martin Csokas, Chloe Grace-Moretz, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo
Director: Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen)

It's the one man might of America versus multiple Russian gangsters in this latest hell-hath-no-fury-like-Denzel-scorned outing that feels like something from the 1980s.

Reuniting Denzel with his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua, the duo set out on updating an 80s gritty UK crime series that starred Edward Woodward as an avenging angel.

Washington is McCall, whose life is a measured calm and precision, and whose past is a mystery. Working in a DIY store and living his evenings reading books at a local diner, he forms a friendship with child prostitute Teri (Grace-Moretz) who's under the control of Russian gangsters. When she's beaten to a pulp, he decides to exact vengeance. But his brutal act of revenge stirs up a hornet's nest and soon, bigger sharks are circling.

The Equalizer is in parts brutal, but a solid thriller, that skimps a little too readily on the action in favour of ponderous build up and stylish slow-mo shots aimed at looking cool more than anything else.

Denzel goes for measured and zen-like calm as he trots out an intensely brooding version of his Man On Fire routine, with each take down he enacts being characterised by a gloomy stare as he visualises how it'll all go down and an over-reliance on choreographed slow-mo shots. Choosing to spend time dispensing healthy living advice to a colleague who wants to be a security guard, advice to Teri on a singing career and sucking on his jaw to demonstrate when he's really ticked off, there's little call for Washington to be anything other than emotionless and completely invincible throughout; with the exception of a handful of scenes which see him soften and open up when his back story is hinted at about two thirds of the way through the film.

Predictably, the story follows a very well-trodden, if somewhat ambling path, with Grace-Moretz's damsel merely book-ending proceedings, and Fuqua choosing to drag out the film for as far as it can be stretched as McCall takes on the one-note villainous Russians - who aside from Martin Csokas's snakelike Fixer barely register.

Short, sharp bursts of brutality punctuate the at times sedentary proceedings as the one-on-one talking ends in bone-crunching agony for those opposed to McCall (and with a final showdown in McCall's DIY store offering up plenty of OSH related issues and conveniently placed weapons). Fuqua chooses to rely on those to provide some life in among the beautiful cinematography and endless grey dusky cityscapes.

City vistas glisten in the dark with a brooding gritty underbelly and Fuqua's framed some wonderfully evocative shots - from fans all whirring in the DIY store to alleyway take downs - but it doesn't distract from the pace of the film which really never feels like it's fully kicking in or building to an emotionally invested climax, given how invincible McCall appears to be - and how outclassed the Russians are when facing him.

All in all, The Equalizer doesn't do subtle - even from allegories and allusions to the books he's reading - the tension is relatively non-existent and the game of cat-and-mouse somewhat lacking in suspense, but yet I couldn't help but entertained in this vengeance tale that's all style and very little substance.

Whether that's grounds enough for a sequel and an unending franchise is debatable, but, as with the TV series which ran for 4 years, you wouldn't bet against McCall.


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