The Equalizer

Posted by Joel Copling on September 25, 2014

We learn nearly everything we need to know about Robert "Bob" McCall (Denzel Washington, in a role that fits his every sensibility as a performer) upon our first introduction to him in "The Equalizer." He is a man of caution and protocol. He works as manager at a HomeMart (sort of a Lowe's/Home Depot combination). His apartment has a simple layout--a bed, a bathroom, a small kitchen with few appliances, and not much more than that. His routine is fairly simple--preparation for the day ahead, a work shift, dinner, and some reading before attempting to go to sleep; if he can't sleep, he zips over to his favorite haunt--a bar at which he enjoys a drink and some conversation with a fellow lonely soul.

This is Alina (Chloe Grace Moretz), a prostitute, whose stage name is Teri, with a heart of gold who fears her clientele; of course, who wouldn't, given they are usually of the thuggish persuasion? Slavi (David Meunier) is her pimp, Mandy (Haley Bennett) is a fellow hooker with whom she shares a genial relationship, and Bob is a nightly escape (only a friendly one, to be clear) in whom she can confide with total trust. Something about his "lost" eyes draws her in. We don't learn much about Bob, by the way, though his wife is apparently dead, and he spent some time in a "presumed dead" state. He is also masterful and meticulous at killing.

We see this most clearly following a brutal attack on Alina that puts her in the hospital. Bob tracks down and slaughters her pimp and his cronies, who predictably are not whom they seem to be. Teddy (an intimidating Marton Csokas) tracks them, determined to find out the rival gang he believes instigated a turf war. "The Equalizer" shifts from a study of attitude to one of economy: There is little to no verbal exposition in Richard Wenk's screenplay (based loosely on Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim's television series of the same name). All that legwork is done by the actors, particularly Washington, who is masterful at portraying a man of action (Note how his disposition hardens and his eyes deaden when faced with a threat).

The final act, during which the stage is set in a creatively mounted setpiece within an unlikely place, does an intriguing job of subverting one's preconceived notions about it. Both a sequence that ratchets up as much tension as it is allowed to have (not much on the grander scale, the protagonist being what he is) and perhaps a savvy take on "Home Alone," director Antoine Fuqua, on-top-of-his-game cinematographer Mauro Fiore, and expert editor Jon Refoua let loose, wrapping up a thriller thick with tension by the most cathartic means possible. "The Equalizer" is privvy enough to earn the simplification of that battle of wits into a the more requisite type of battle.

Film Information

Denzel Washington (Robert "Bob" McCall), Marton Csokas (Teddy), Chloe Grace Moretz (Teri), David Harbour (Masters), Johnny Skourtis (Ralphie), David Meunier (Slavi), Haley Bennett (Mandy), Melissa Leo (Susan Plummer), Bill Pullman (Brian Plummer).

Directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by Richard Wenk, based on the television series created by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim.

Rated R (bloody violence, language throughout including sexual references).

128 minutes.

Released on September 26, 2014.