Cert: 15 / 132 mins / Dir. Antoine Fuqua
There are a few scenes in Antoine Fuqua's big-screen adaptation of The Equalizer which suggest that at one point this was going to be a dark and visceral thriller about a vigilante who also happens to be a borderline psychopath, and who uses his connections, experience and knowledge of the authorities to cover his tracks whilst protecting the innocent from crime and corruption. Then the suits got hold of it, wrote a Liam Neeson film and threw some money at Denzel Washington to play the lead as Neeson already had three films in production.
Sometimes, and irrespective of how much The Bad Men™ might deserve to get killed, Washington's Robert McCall drives in the knife / screwdriver / hand-drill / shard-of-mirror with the sort of blank-faced enthusiasm we've come to expect from a David Fincher film. Not with glee, and never with any other viable course of action present, but there's more than just efficiency to McCall's repertoire. Everything else in the film though, is sadly more pedestrian. The plot of 'blah blah widowed retired intelligence officer, blah blah Russian oligarch, blah blah young prostitute who forms a platonic bond with hero' is so tired that it's almost insulting to audiences. Denzel Washington sleepwalks his way through the film, one step away from becoming the Morgan Freeman of action-thrillers. Other 'good' characters in the film are used solely when actually required for the mechanics of the plot, meaning Chloë Grace Moretz doesn't get the screentime she needs for Alina to be effective, and Melissa Leo's cameo appearance is the deus ex machina of plot exposition.
If I sound like I'm being overly harsh, it's because I'm actually disappointed with how little effort the film puts forth. The original TV series ran for 88 episodes, and while it may not have been awarded a place in the all-time-greats, there has to have been more depth to it than this (doesn't there?). At 132 minutes, the film is far longer than it needs to be and feels it, too. There's some fun to be had, and it's engaging enough while it's playing, but there's a painful scarcity of new ideas, here.
The Equalizer isn't a 'bad' film, it's just nowhere near good enough.
But if you like your pantomime villains to twiddle their moustaches in oak-panelled offices, between ostentatiously slapping around sex-workers in their employ, whilst a righteous, silent do-gooder looks on disapprovingly thinking about what size hammer will be right for the job of fixing their attitudes… you may well enjoy this.
It's not an unfair assessment.
Not as much as the director would have liked, I'm sure.
This is a £2.99 DVD parked by the tills when you're buying some beers for a night in, if ever there was one.
I won't avoid it, but there's nothing calling me back.
There isn't, but the hospital scene does feature the 'Dr Davis, telephone please…' sample, and that's the next best thing, right?.
Are we really (seriously) expected to believe that an ex-intelligence officer would murder four people in a room immediately after leaving his fingerprints all over the skull ornaments on the desk and the office door he was playing with, not to mention the murder weapons themselves, and just expect to get away with it? Really, though?
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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