DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

THE EQUALIZER (director: Antoine Fuqua; screenwriters: Richard Wenk/based on the television series created by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim; cinematographer: Mauro Fiore; editor: John Refoua; music:  Harry Gregson-Williams; cast: Denzel Washington (Robert McCall), Marton Csokas (Teddy), Chloë Grace Moretz (Alina, a.k.a. Teri), David Harbour (Masters), Haley Bennett (Mandy, prostitute), Bill Pullman (Brian Plummer), Melissa Leo (Susan Plummer), Vladimir Kulich (Vladimir Pushkin), Johnny Skourtis (Ralphie), Vitaliy Shtabnoy (Andri), Alex Veadov (Tevi); Runtime: 131; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Todd Black/Jason Blumenthal/Denzel Washington/Alex Siskin/Steve Tisch/Mace Neufeld/Tony Eldridge/Michael Sloan; Columbia Pictures; 2014)

"If the pic went on any further, I think you might have seen the invincible Denzel taking on Putin's Russian army by himself and winning."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It's a ponderous, gratuitously violent, and overlong reboot of the 1985-1989 TV series “The Equalizer,” that has to its advantage the showy performance of the nearly 60-year-old Denzel Washington playing the saintly Robert McCall. He's someone who can channel his inner special skills in the art of fighting--making him the baddest badass in the world. Bob's a former top CIA assassin who left the spy boys after escaping from a car bomb and over the years the widower flew under the radar leading a monkish life in Boston while working a low level job as a floor stocker in a Home Depot-like store and getting around town by riding a public bus; that is, until he reappears one day as an avenging angel.  This comes about when the kindly Bob befriends a teenage prostitute, Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), who also hangs out late at night in the same all-night diner (which looks as if it could be an Edward Hopper painting intro to a TCM noir feature film) the insomniac camps out at a booth reading (the hardcover edition of "The Old Man and The Sea"), drinking his own special tea and trying to hand out good advice on how to lead a healthy life. When Teri's Russian mobster pimp Slavi (Chloë Grace Moretz) brutally beats her, Bob tries to buy her freedom for $9,800. When Bob is shrugged off in Slavi's office, above his restaurant, he goes Hong Kong style fighter crazy and viciously brings down Slavi and a bunch of his goons. This action makes the big Russian mob boss Pushkin (Vladimir Kulich) send in his top enforcer, the efficient sadistic psychopath Teddy (Marton Csokas), to find out who killed their men, clean up the mess and set an example for others by punishing anyone the mob feels has not been completely loyal. 

If you forget everything else, especially how silly and unbelievable it is, it might work for you as an escapist action-packed thriller, even if it might be brain dead, merely a childish fantasy film and revolting in its depictions of sex trafficking. Nevertheless it is pop culture-like entertaining and features the likable Denzel as the unlikely but capable middle-aged action hero. We learn that he's fighting some of the worst scum in the world in order to do his bit to make the world a better place for the more vulnerable citizens to live in.

Director Antoine Fuqua ("Shooter"/"Training Day"/"Brooklyn's Finest") and writer Richard Wenk are not afraid to make it shamelessly over-the-top gory and ultra-violent, as they turn their cinema friendly vigilante protagonist into a one-man army against pimps, the Russian mafia, hoodie wearing armed store robbers, and corrupt cops.  If the pic went on any further, I think you might have seen the invincible Denzel taking on Putin's Russian army by himself and winning. 

REVIEWED ON 9/26/2014       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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