Antoine Fuqua has added another run of the mill action film to the one man wrecking ball genre with The Equalizer. There is very little to differentiate the film thematically or stylistically with similar films such as the Liam Neeson-starring Taken series.
For such films, plot is never the draw card so, naturally, it doesn’t see a lot of development. Robert McCall (Denzel Washington), an ex-black ops agent now working at a hardware store, becomes involved with the Russian mafia through their abuse of a young prostitute (Chloe Grace-Moretz) who frequents the same cafe that McCall does at night. We follow McCall as he works his way through the mafia, leaving a trail of destruction and violence behind whilst employing a number of signature traits such as his time keeping ability and his eagerness to help out friends with their personal issues.
It is this destruction and violence, for better or worse, that the audience comes to see. However, there is nothing nuanced or new about what Fuqua delivers in this aspect. We’ve seen it done just as well in a number of films before. In the aspect where The Equalizer should be standing out from the rest, it is happy to take a seat and settle for similarity.
The one draw card that makes this film at least enjoyable, even if it is mindlessly so, is Denzel Washington in the lead as the meticulous ex-black ops agent. It is always fun to see Denzel give a strong performance no matter which film it fits into. We buy into most of what Denzel is doing with the usual suspension of reality when it comes to vigilantes taking down masses of armed men. We feel his kindness when he wants to help people and this sets up why he is so willing to take on an entire mafia. Although, I choose to believe he also enjoys what he does as well. It makes the character more believable, especially when we see some of the more creative methods he employs to dispatch his enemies.
The Equalizer is a film for the ages in the sense that you could have watched it when it came out, now or watch it in 20 years’ time and what you take away won’t change. It isn’t political about the Russian mafia, choosing to accept that it exists without reasoning. It doesn’t condemn prostitution or even comment on it, leaving the viewer to make up their own mind on what is a relative side note. The only thing it was saying in 2014, now and will say in the future is that it’s fun to watch one guy, who is sentimentally motivated, kill a bunch of two dimensional throw away bad guys in various graphic ways of violence. For this, The Equalizer will only be remembered as a film that mildly entertains.