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The Equalizer (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 128 minutes.

Not for children.

Based on a 1980s TV series of the same name, Denzel Washington plays McCall, who is strikingly reminiscent of Lee Child’s protagonist, Jack Reacher, in that he is a loner who takes on seemingly quixotic battles against extraordinarily bad people.

Relatively well directed by Antoine Fuqua from a script by Richard Wenk, the problem that I had with the movie was that I never for a moment felt that McCall was ever anything short of being in total control, and never felt he was in any danger, robbing the film of the apprehension thrillers need. Despite this, my companion at the screening said that she felt the tension was so high it was causing her to shake, so maybe I have just become too blasé when watching thrillers like this.

Without a gun, McCall takes on people from the Russian mob who are brutal killers. The shtick is that when he senses danger he goes into some sort of state where he seems to scan the room electronically determining what he’s going to do to whom and sets a time limit for it. Sometimes he even sets the timer on his watch.

What makes this film better than average are the supporting actors playing members of the Russian mob. David Meunier, Alex Veadov, Vitaliy Shtabnoy, and Matt Lasky, are instantly believable as bloodthirsty psychopaths. The main bad guy, Teddy (Martin Csokas) is as phlegmatic as McCall, but is the biggest sociopath of them all, killing with enjoyment and not a scintilla of emotion. David Harbour gives a fine performance as Frank Masters, a corrupt Boston cop. Chloë Grace Moretz is convincing as the young prostitute, Teri, that McCall helps that gets him involved with the brutal gang of killers.

Filled with a lot of graphic violence, Fuqua (who directed Denzel to an Oscar® in 2001’s Training Day) knows how to keep the tension rising and is a master at pace which, after a relatively slow start, never flags. Alas, Denzel’s character is far more one dimensional than what he played in Training Day. This film is really just a day at the office for him. Notwithstanding the A-list participants, this is barely more than a run of the mill action film, hardly worthy of the talent involved, and a story that certainly shouldn’t have taken more than two hours to tell. Still, it’s entertaining and emotionally rewarding.