Movie Review: ‘The Equalizer’


Director: Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Denzel Washington, Chloë Grace Moretz, Marton Csokas

Plot: A blue collar worker reveals a mysterious past when he is driven to stand up to those who have done wrong to his friends, dolling out swift and violent revenge for people who can’t stand up for themselves. This quickly puts him on the wrong footing with the Russian mob, leading to an escalation of danger and bloodshed.

Review: I’m not a fan of Denzel Washington. He was considered one of the best in the 90s, being attached to most Oscar bait movies doing the rounds before making a living with hyper violent revenge films (a career path also followed by Liam Neeson, curiously enough). I couldn’t fault him as a performer, but he’s always seemed a bit…smug. And it put my back up. Then there’s director Antoine Fuqua. The posters for The Equalizer have pointed out that it’s from the director of Training Day, but since then he’s been turning out various shades of rubbish like King Arthur and Shooter. Wouldn’t rush out to see what he has to offer.

This is good though. Worth the time you’ll spend in a cinema and the price of the ticket. Well worth it.

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Washington stars as ‘Bob’, a worker at a home warehouse who easily befriends those he meets, whether they be colleagues, diner owners or the young prostitute who frequents the same eatery as he. He lives alone, reads to pass the time and is OCD. When Teri, the young night worker who aspires to be a singer, gets ten kinds of shit knocked out of her by her pimp Bob makes them an offer to release her from their service. When he is refused he dispatches the room full of gangsters in a highly professional and remarkably deadly manner. Bob has a secret past, something that we as the viewers are never fully aware of but we’re given enough clues to piece together the backstory.

It’s nice to see an action film that doesn’t spell out the who backstory for us, and assumes that we can work it out for ourselves. Paradoxically there’s some seriously heavy handed symbolism during the rest of the movie. You’ll feel like the director would be popping up in the corner and pointing things out if he thought he could get away with it. Stylistically The Equalizer has a few trips and stumbles, frequently throwing in some drawn out slow motion or Sherlock-esque scans of rooms prior to murder.

The Equalizer

Having said that the rest of the film falls into place quite nicely. The action scenes are exciting and each one unravels following some deft build up on tension. Following the set up of Bob as the nice, friendly co-worker some of the cringe-inducing attacks involving corkscrews create a powerful contrast. The mystery of Bob’s past, the suspense surrounding each encounter and the menace of the villains combine to create a better than average action thriller. 

As Bob, Washington does a good job of the dual roles. He’s a likeable guy around the neighbourhood and a convincing professional murderer. When he confronts the villains in the hardware store it gets downright sadistic, and you’ll be lucky to get through it without cringing. His mysterious past is a good selling point but as the movie progresses it begins to feel like a void that needs filled in. Chloë Grace Moretz does a solid job of playing the damaged young victim and it’s a shame that she doesn’t get more screen time (largely absent from the second act of the movie).

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Although it feels as though it’s lacking a strong narrative thread to link all the acts together it’s a damn fine revenge film. It won’t win any awards but it’s plenty of gruesome fun.

Rating: SEVEN out of TEN