A man believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and has dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when he meets a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can’t stand idly by - he has to help her.
Year 3, Film #28
THE GOOD: At the end of the film I had a thought that may seem kind of strange, but the more I think about it, it turns out to be quite apt. The Equalizer is like an adult version of Home Alone with violence, bigger stakes, and thought-provoking questions. In other words, remove most of the comedic parts, make Home Alone R-rated, and slap on some poetic musings, and you get The Equalizer.
Set in Boston (woo! — there was a big audience reaction to the opening shot when you see the Boston skyline, as to be expected from a Boston audience), the film follows Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) in his late-night escapades of justice. All you need to know is that McCall is a badass; we don’t really know how or why, just that he’s lived a life full of combat and violence.
Much of the film is hidden in secrecy and an ominous foreboding of things to come. Until about twenty or thirty minutes (possibly even longer) into the film all we get is character development. It’s very slow moving as we begin to learn who McCall is. He’s very meticulous and methodical. He has a routine that he follows everyday including very carefully wrapping up a tea bag in a napkin and taking it to a favorite diner at 2:00 in the morning along with a book to read.
One of the only other things we know about McCall is that he’s very friendly. He befriends Teri/Alaina (Chloë Grace Moretz) at the diner and a lovable guy named Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis) at work — an off-brand Home Depot. But even in the beginning where things are very slow moving, I never felt bored. Despite the slowness you can tell it’s building up to something. There’s a reason the film spends so long introducing these characters and that is to plant the idea although there is going to be wall-to-wall action, explosions, and chases coming up, they’re all going to serve a purpose, and that purpose is justice.
In essence, that’s what makes The Equalizer so special. On the outside, this may seem like your typical, run-of-the-mill action film with a big star, and that may be true in some respects. You have the Russian mafia angle (which was also seen in the recent Let’s Be Cops) and themes of money and corruption that are so popular and rote in modern Hollywood fare. There’s the idea of sticking up for the little guy and protecting those who need help. Most of all, the film’s main theme of justice and doing what’s right is an idea seen in so many other films.
But The Equalizer stands above all that. It takes ideas that we’ve all seen before and makes them its own. It strings you along during the quieter moments, priming you for what’s to come, and when the big moments do come, you’re yanked forward in your seat with bated breath to see how it ends. And the final scene will bring forth all the excitement and wonderment you remember when Kevin laid his booby traps in Home Alone mixed with a sense of gore and discomfort of home appliances and power tools entering human flesh. It’s an interesting mix of entertainment sources that will leave you feeling like you just got off a roller coaster: heart pumping, hair blown back, and a smile plastered across your face due to the sheer thrills and suspense you just experienced.
THE TAKEAWAY: Despite some familiarity and feeling like this is just another action film, The Equalizer defies all expectations and blows you away with it’s unique, and mysterious, take on the very popular, and often very unoriginal, action genre. You may be left with questions at the end, but the film paints a very clear picture, and one that’s a pleasure to watch.
The Equalizer opens in theaters tomorrow, Friday, September 26, 2014.
THE RATING: 5 out of 5