Critic Tom Swinford reviews The Equalizer
Rarely does a film’s opening quote sum up its characters and themes so perfectly than in Antoine Fuqus’ The Equalizer. Themes of redemption, self-importance and morality all exist here within characters — particularly that of anti-hero Robert McCall (Denzel Washington): a composed father figure who works at an average US hardware store. Initially, it seems that McCall’s day to shine is when he is slips out of the monotony of urban life. But, as his past is revealed, McCall must become the man he’s is meant to be, embracing his past life in order to become a good man.
Whilst these themes are not new to the genre, it’s hard to picture any other actor cast for this role. Washington’s emotive performance anchors McCall in the realm of believability. Although, this wouldn’t be important in other ‘old action hero’ films such as The Expendables, The Equalizer is a film which takes it self seriously. So, in a sense, it must be believable for us to keep up with the thrills and fears McCall has on his quest for redemption.
McCall also passes his attempt at redemption and morality down paternally to a young prostitute Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz). When embracing his past life and protecting Teri from violent Russian gangsters, McCall unknowingly brings the Russian Mafia down on his head. Although it’s slightly unnerving that a girl the age of Moretz would be in such a position her performance is stellar. Further enhancing the emotional connection that we have with these characters, proving she can stand toe to toe with the likes of Washington.
Whilst Both Moretz’ and Washington’s performances are fantastic there are balancing strengths and weaknesses to both characters. Terri is slightly underused as she disappears for half of the film. During this McCall rapidly becomes a Batman like vigilante; insane and almost invincible. If it wasn’t due to solid pacing, music and effects throughout the McCall would have been difficult to relate to.
It is within this middle act vigilantism that the villain significantly helps the film. The main antagonist is a hybrid of Die Hard Sociopath Hans Gruber and Sherlock Holmes’ insane genius Moriarty. This mixture of suaveness and instability leads to the exciting development of an un-predictable and original action villain that differs from the cliché ultra-violent Russian gangsters and hired mercenary cannon fodder of other action films. The fear that Teddy could flip from one scene to another drove the thrill for the majority of the film. He balances out McCall’s and without such a determined, strong villain there would be nothing substantial about McCall’s journey.
Peculiarly, Antoine Fuqus’ leaves the ending open to interpretation. It’s hard to feel thrilled when you know that another film will be released in the near future. Although, it has become practice to expect open endings in modern films due to the gold mine that is future franchise potential.
In short The Equalizer suffers from various action film clichés (including a forgivable and possibly the biggest ‘cool guys don’t look at explosions walk’) and does underuse actors who could add more to the story.
The Equalizer leads the pack in a slightly oversaturated sub-genre, presenting an intriguing and emotional hero-villain conflict with a surprising moral outcome.
Seven out of Ten
by Tom Swinford