Saturday, September 27, 2014

"The Equalizer" is All Business and No Frills

When you search "Denzel Washington" on, next to it name it says "Training Day: 2001". While the movie was thirteen years ago, it's timeless and can be watched over and over again. The then forty-seven year old Washington was a crooked cop and a bad, bad man. As Detective Alonzo Harris so infamously said, "King Kong ain't got sh*t on me." He would later get gunned down in dramatic fashion.

Fast forward to 2014, and not many actors have sh*t on Denzel in the "badass" category. You have Liam Neeson, Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson who have carved out their respective niches in the action market. But there's only one Denzel. And his performance is the  opposite of Alonzo Harris: bulletproof.

Since then we have seen Washington give dynamic efforts in Flight, The Book of Eli, American Gangster and Man on Fire. His resume has earned him the right to pick and choose only the best of roles, the film equivalent to Floyd Mayweather. They might be once or twice a year, and they are always on people's calendars. The only difference is Washington challenges himself.

Washington is once again a bad, bad man- but this time he's hunting the crooked cops. His character, Robert "Call Me Rob" McCall frequents Bridge Diner where he is seen on multiple occasions chatting up Teri (Chloe Moretz). Teri is a prostitute for a group of Russian mobsters. Her fleeting moments of peace with McCall build up the chemistry between the two characters very well. Not many seventeen-year old actresses could hang with Denzel in a movie, but Moretz more than holds her own. You can see the pain in her face and hear it in her voice, as she wishes more than anything her situation was different. McCall updates her on whatever book he is currently reading on his goal to finishing the top one-hundred books in honor of his late wife.

McCall is later introduced to the mobsters as they assert their dominance over Teri, then again when he decides to pay them a visit. His character's obsessive compulsive nature is on display here with his reconfiguring of the Russian's desk and the setting of his watch. The moments slow down for him( making great use of the IMAX HD) as he analyzes the room and plans out his assault on this group of rough Russians. The scene would set the precedent for a character and a movie that wastes none of its time.

McCall's movements are fluid and with purpose, the marks of a trained assassin. His methods may not be a shining example of being good, but it gets the job done. It hints at a past life and adds intrigue to the character. Who is Robert McCall really? How does he know how to not only kill but do so with the utmost efficiency? By day he is your normal "Home Mart" employee (think Home Depot). By night he is a vigilante with his own form of brutal justice- not only on mobsters but also cops who abuse the badge.

Once he finds about Teri's vicious beating at the hands of the Russians, a switch is flipped inside the peaceful McCall. His mission is now to take down the mob and as he puts it, "brick by brick."

Marton Csokas plays Teddy, McCall's antagonist who is sent in to clean up the current mess. He, like Robert, is a no-nonsense kind of guy. The difference? Their intentions. Csokas' performance isn't groundbreaking, but it is on par with Washington's which only adds to the intensity of the film.

A lot of action movies either lack the ability to captivate the viewer or sustain the intensity for the duration of the film, but Equalizer achieves those tasks remarkably. Coming in at a little over two hours, the movie uses every minute of it to maximize the talent on screen and accomplish the good versus evil endgame. There is no sappy love story or extra unnecessary weight to slow it down.

Aside from the excellent trailer, the reunion of Washington and Training Day director Antoine Fuqua also gets attention from moviegoers. Fuqua's style mixed with a justice-reaping, ass-kicking Denzel is a match made in Heaven for those thirsty for story and action. He makes the most of IMAX HD which makes scenes featuring explosions, rain drops and the pre-assault "slowdowns" all the more impressive.

This isn't like last week's A Walk Among the Tombstones with Liam Neeson. It's not just a similar kind of action movie that keeps Washington's name afloat. He's past that. This is a cinematic event that already has a sequel planned even before it hit theaters.

Washington's McCall is a hero with a flawed past. You might even think a modern day Batman of sorts. Pushing sixty, Denzel may not be able to leap small buildings in a single bound like Superman- but he sure can be convincing as a man on a mission to take down whatever big, bad villain comes his way.

Rating: ****


Like it? Love it? Hate it? Let me know @SeanNeutron.