Not without its issues, but still pretty cool. So this is about a man with a mysterious past (Denzel Washington), just trying to live a quiet life. He may be done with the past, but the past isn’t done with him, and he is forced to reuse his skill set when his friend (Chloë Grace Moretz) is hospitalized by the Russian gangsters. Now Denzel is an actor that I enjoy in practically everything he stars in; he has dominating screen presence, and of his last 10 movies, I’ve seen 9 of them (I missed the Great Debaters) and enjoyed/loved 8 of them (Safe House was weak sauce). He can open a movie, too; with this, he has now had $20 million opening weekends for 15 of his movies, and the total box office gross for his films? Over $3.6 billion. Needless to say, if you want to make sure you’re getting the most of your investment, the smart money’s on him. Out of all of his movies, my favorite is easily Man on Fire, so you can imagine my excitement when I see a movie that is advertised to be its spiritual successor.
You might as well have called this character John Creasy, or Frank Castle, for that matter. Now I was really enjoying this from the beginning, as it was actually taking the time to develop the characters. You get to see this man minding his own business, and it is a solid 25 minutes before you get to anything action related. When you do get to that point, you just know in your gut that everybody in the room has just made the biggest mistake of their lives, especially Cousin Johnny (you should check out Justified if you have the time). I just don’t understand why criminals don’t know better by this point; if I ever met a family member/buddy/acquaintance of either Denzel or Liam Neeson, I would go out of my way to not wrong him/her in any way, whatsoever.
Quality wise, the Equalizer falls somewhere towards the middle/lower end of Washington’s career, which is still pretty good. It is grittier than most, and doesn’t feature much comedic relief, hitting that grim note continuously throughout. It gets graphically violent, which is appropriate for this kind of story, and there is an intimidating villain played by Marton Csokas. All good stuff, but there are two things that hold this movie back from being great. 1. It is over two hours when it has no reason to be. There are a number of different places where you can identify less important details that could be shaved off, and it would be a better movie for it, which leads directly into the next thing. 2. There could be some tightening up in the story department; the beginning and the ending of this are strong, but the second act loses focus. There are worthwhile parts to this movie, but bottom line: this doesn’t out-Punisher Man on Fire, so don’t expect it to.
The Equalizer (2014) ***
– Critic for Hire