MOVIE REVIEW: ‘The Equalizer’ Blends Hammers, Explosions, And A Whole Lot Of Meh

Film: The Equalizer
Starring: Denzel Washington
Directed By: Antonio Fuqua

Denzel Washington is a lot like Liam Neeson these days. Nine times out of ten, if either one appears in a movie it’s likely they will soon begin killing people. Neeson prefers tales of revenge, but Washington tends to lean more towards stories about doing the right thing (even if it means being a very bad soul). The Equalizer continues a trend in the star’s filmography that started with Man On Fire, and it’s as thrilling as anything he’s delivered in recent memory.

Whether or not you remember The Equalizer television series that the latest film from Antonio Fuqua is based upon is irrelevant. The story present by Fuqua and his team would work just as well without the ties to the dated series, and it provides no real reason for anyone to try and learn more about its source material. All anyone really needs to know going in is that Denzel Washington portrays yet another man who has a history that is far more complicated than he initially lets on. He leads a quiet life in the Boston area, and generally speaking does everything he can to keep to himself. That is, until he encounters evil.

The heart of The Equalizer is not unlike that of any superhero film. The hero, who just so happens to be the type of person no one would expect to save the world, puts the security of others before themselves and soon discovers their enemy is far worse than they initially imagined. The stakes are raised, as is the body count, and it all builds to a ridiculous climax that is as entirely unbelievable as it is wildly entertaining. You never really doubt where things will wind up, but you sit back and enjoy the ride nonetheless. It’s not about the destination, it’s about spectacle, and thanks to the careful direction of Fuqua that is delivered in large quantities throughout the film.

Washington is his typical stoic self in the lead role, which works…to an extent. It’s hard to avoid feeling that the similarity of this role to others in Denzel’s recent history has led the actor to settle into ‘autopilot’ during certain exposition-filled sequences. He can still make you uncomfortable with the right look, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that you have already encountered his character in the past (perhaps while he was saving a young Dakota Fanning south of the border). As there are no other prominent leads, those who notice the similarities early on may find their patience with his lack of depth frustrating as the film carries on.

Chloe Grace Moretz, who is second billed on the film, appears in far less than half the movie. Her role is intended more as a catalyst than a sidekick, and as soon as her sad eyes are no longer needed she’s (literally and figuratively) bussed off to a place far from the events taking place onscreen. It was a smart marketing move to make audiences believe she would be involved throughout the story in the trailers, but when that never happens it’s hard to feel like the story isn’t missing a more cathartic third act.

The Equalizer has nothing to say or show that hasn’t been thrown at audiences before, but thanks to Fuqua’s brilliant direction and a strong, albeit somewhat stereotypical turn from Washington, the film has plenty of eye candy to spare. Those looking for an escape from the real world that is filled with needlessly complicated violence and a final battle sequence that feels far more epic than the story ever demands will not need to search very hard to find something to love about this film. Those looking for depth, however, may have better luck trying one of many other films now playing in theaters. A sequel isn’t necessarily in the cards at this point, but if The Equalizer makes enough money I have no doubts another adventure will follow before the end of 2016. You have the power. Think twice about what you want from your entertainment and go from there.


Review written by James Shotwell

James Shotwell
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