Friday, September 26, 2014


Director Antoine Fuqua’s adaptation of the 1980’s TV show THE EQUALIZER, in which a retired intelligence officer goes around helping people, holds on very tightly to the spirit of the main character. So tightly in fact, it works against him on the big screen.
Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is a kind and helpful man who is always coming to the aid of his co-workers and friends. When he helps out Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), a prostitute working for Russian gangsters, his mysterious past comes out of the shadows as he goes on a personal war against the mob.

THE EQUALIZER starts off strong. It begins building a foundation between Robert and Teri. Robert is a widower who carries a burden, while Teri is young and stuck in a life she cannot get out of. Both have already been chewed up and spit out by life, and their interactions together make for some great character moments. Once the plot thickens a little, THE EQUALIZER grinds to a halt. The film goes out of its way to let us know that Robert will go out of his way to help people out; so much that the film loses its focus. A ton of sub-plots come into play which easily could have been cut, and it doesn’t take long for heads to start nodding.
Director Antoine Fuqua seems to struggle with his narrative and pacing, and only livens things up when Robert/Denzel starts going on the hunt and begins wiping out gangsters and crooked cops. Fists are thrown, legs are kicked, triggers are pulled and heads are bashed in as THE EQUALIZER goes for a violent, bloody, and fun mess. When the film is allowed to fight, things are good. But when things calm down, Fuqua doesn’t know what to do with his characters as they merely circle around each other in a dull cat-and-mouse game. Things take forever to unfold and every thrilling moment is followed by several snoozers. Outside of some excellent fight scenes, Fuqua also embraces nearly every cliché element of the standard action-flick, but fails to put a fresh spin on any of them.

Fuqua, who once directed Denzel Washington to an Oscar, doesn’t seem to inject himself much into his actors. Denzel plays his character way too distant, and there isn’t an ounce of empathy to be felt for him. His performance is fine, and is allowed some fun moments, but it feels like it should have been a lot more. Chloe Grace Moretz is fantastic as the young prostitute eager to get out, and Marton Csokas puts in a stock performance as the mob leader. Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo show up for a welcome cameo and are missed as soon as they leave the picture.
After a fantastic final fight, THE EQUALIZER gets anti-climatic by going for several different endings (including a twist which makes no sense), and the film feels like it takes a thousand years to wrap up. It’s clear that it could have benefitted from another pass in the editing room, as the many sub-plots and sluggish pacing could have been corrected. THE EQUALIZER isn’t a total waste of time; it just passes for a time-waster.


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