Directed by Antoine Fuqua
By JOHN FOOTE
Denzel Washington is such a powerful actor he can make anything worth watching... well almost.
The two time Oscar winner has enjoyed a tremendous career since leaving the hit TV show St. Elsewhere in the eighties and being cast as South African activist Steve Biko, which earned him an Oscar nomination in the film Cry Freedom (1987). In the years since he has won Oscars for Best Supporting Actor for Glory (1989) and Best Actor for Training Day (2001). Three other nominations have come for his career best performance in Malcolm X (1992). With an intelligence that radiates off the screen, Washington has worked hard to become one of the screen’s finest actors, admired by both audiences and critics. He is one of those actors who can say volumes without speaking, allowing his eyes to do the talking.
Through the 2000’s after portraying the vicious crooked cop in Training Day (2001) he was cast in a handful of films in which he was a kick ass bad ass, most notably as the tough bodyguard relentless stalking the kidnappers of the little girl he guards in Man on Fire (2005). However it seemed that those roles did not challenge the actor after seeing him do it once. I hoped he might get back into doing important work.
Instead we have The Equalizer, an entertaining enough film, but one that once again sees him in badass form.
It’s not that he is not fun to watch snatching a gun from the hands of the man holding it on him, or gazing around the room sizing up his enemies, just knowing he has them over a barrel, it is that the film gives him so little back.
Robert MacCall (Washington) is a deadly ex CIA operative who cut a deal to allow himself to live a normal life, he works in a Home Depot sort of place, and leads a lonely life, reading books one after another in a small diner. Sitting in the same place at the same time each night, he has pledged to read one hundred great books, picking up where his late wife off, so in a sense they are doing it together. It is there he encounters a young hooker portrayed by Chloe Grace Morentz who will alter the course of his life. They become friends, they chat, and he sees the men she works for. When she is terribly beaten, he gets involved and when he gets involved I mean he kicks some serious ass, drawing the wrath of the vicious Russian mob. Enforcers arrive from Moscow with so little regard for human life it is frightening, and they go after Washington and everyone he cares for.
What they do not count on is the fact this is a man trained in warfare up close and personal.
Teddy (Marton Csokas) is terrifying as the ice cold assassin sent to terminate Washington from Moscow. Quietly lethal his presence frightens even the toughest of cops who encounter him. He looks at the young hookers as insects he can squash with his shoe, not as people, and eliminates anyone who stands in his way.
We know of course where this is all headed, to a great and nasty climax in the Home Depot-like store where MacCall works.
One of the many issues I had with the film was the fact the director seems to set up fights for the sole purpose of finding more and more interesting ways to kill people with various objects and tools, such as a corkscrew and nail gun. When we see MacCall walk to a display case and take a mallet out, we know what is coming. Is this what films like Saw (2008) have brought to the screen? I hope not.
There are no real characters to play as written but the actors are so immensely gifted they manage to create something out of what they have been given. Washington stalks the screen like a panther, ever watchful, taking everything in when he enters a room. Csokas is frightening, and though woefully miscast, Morentz does well in her scenes with Washington.
Based on the TV series of the 90’s with Edward Woodward, it appears they are going for a new franchise of films. God I hope not.