Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Johnnie Skourtis, Chloe Grace Moretz
Rated: R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, including some sexual references
The plotline featuring a retired/semi-retired man driven to take up his violent ways once more to save a woman is not new. In fact, there’s almost nothing new about “The Equalizer” except perhaps its quality performances and the villains being Russian gangsters in Boston. What the film does accomplish, however, is executing its tropes flawlessly. If you want a flick that will give you entertainment along with the comfort of familiarity, this is your cup of tea.
Denzel Washington plays Robert, a mysterious older fellow who works at the local home improvement store, keeps his modest apartment rigorously organized, and follows his routines like clockwork. One of those routines includes late-night visits to a diner, where he brings a book to read and chats about it with young Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), an aspiring singer. She’s also a prostitute, and when things go badly for her with a client and her Russian pimp decides to make an example of her, Robert is finally pushed too far.
It’s immediately apparent that Robert is nowhere near as ordinary as he seems. He doesn’t just have military habits, he clearly has extensive training in making angry, armed people dead in a hurry. Of course, what starts out as simple revenge quickly escalates as the Russian mob sends in their cleaner, Teddy (Marton Csokas) to handle Robert.
The fight scenes, suspenseful cat-and-mouse games, and face-offs are all solid. Washington and Csokas play off each other perfectly, and the number of nameless goons Robert gets to take out in various creative ways (he works in a home improvement store, after all) offer plenty of chances to be impressed by Robert’s skills.
Washington seems to have fun in the role, especially once Robert is fully in his element and being a total boss. He gets to do a lot of awesome fighting with a completely impassive face, walk in slow motion as explosions and other violence happen behind him, save the girl, and take out a lot of bad guys. Csokas likewise has fun and delivers a delightfully evil performance, although his Russian accent needs some serious work.
Moretz, unfortunately, is completely wasted. She only gets a few scenes, and her character exists entirely to get the plot rolling. Even with the tiny amount of time she gets, Moretz brings Teri to life, but it’s disappointing that she’s immediately sidelined. One of the things that quickly becomes annoying about this kind of film once you notice it is that they’re all about men. The few women show up to move the plot along, and don’t have agency of their own. Familiar dialog is one thing (a couple behind me in the theater said a number of Robert’s lines before he did, just from having seen enough of this kind of movie), having women exist only as plot elements is another.
However, if that doesn’t bother you and you’re in the mood for some very well-executed vigilante violence, go see “The Equalizer.” If you want to see something new and innovative, go elsewhere.