“The Equalizer” Review

Loosely based off of the 80s TV show of the same name that you probably vaguely recognize for its appearance in The Wolf of Wall Street, The Equalizer is the latest action movie vehicle for Denzel Washington. Reteaming with Training Day director Antoine Fuqua, the story revolves around a blue collar man (Washington) with an ambiguous past, who takes on a series of Russian gangsters after they assault and kidnap a young call girl (Chloë Grace Moretz). 

You remember the Lonely Island song “Cool Guys Don’t Look at Explosions”? Because The Equalizer does. When we get to the clichéd scene with Denzel Washington blowing up a building and casually walking away, it just seems to fit. The whole movie is the epitome of the male machismo fantasy. If you want to see Denzel Washington beat up people up like there’s no tomorrow, this movie is for you. Because despite a calm and calculated start, that’s all this film is. By the time we reach the climax, the movie becomes self-parody. I didn’t realize that I needed a 20 minute sequence of Denzel Washington shooting people in slow motion with hardcore stock action music in the background, but evidently I did, because it was absolutely hysterical. 

With exception to one Russian man who gets a couple hits in for some inexplicable reason, Denzel wins every fight with magnificent ease, which is an impressive feat, considering that extras appear out of thin air. And he’s so charismatic while he does it. He’s really the saving grace of this movie. He’s not exactly doing anything new or innovative with his performance, but he’s just so cool. Although he doesn’t do much, he does it so well. Unfortunately, his performance can only carry the movie so far.

Not that the other performances are bad, per se, but they’re all kind of average and expected. There are no outstanding supporting roles or anyone who even really breaks out of their caricature. Chloë Grace Moretz plays a call girl who talks with Denzel at the beginning and end of the movie, but I can’t see anything other than Chloë Grace Moretz doing her annoying lip raise and reading lines. Johnny Skourtis plays Denzel’s coworker, and despite the actor’s obvious charisma, never develops into much more than a plot device. And Martin Csokas plays the main Russian villain, but comes across as nothing more than a cartoon. There are no inherently bad performances here – in fact, many of the actors are very fun to watch – but none of the characters are given enough to come across as real people.

Subtlety also isn’t this movie’s strong suit. Early on in the film, Denzel’s character is reading The Old Man and the Sea, and states to Moretz’s character that, “Old man’s gotta be old the old man, fish has gotta be the fish.” It’s not the first time in the film that a metaphor is shoved down your throat, and it certainly isn’t the last time. The film lacks the self-awareness necessary to make it fun, but if you want to watch some mindless ultraviolence, it’s not too painful. 4/10.

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