When go­ing gets tough, a killer has got to be a killer

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - RAN­DALL KING

HE’S a guy most would con­sider too old to ever be con­sid­ered dan­ger­ous. But he proves to be a tough and for­mi­da­ble op­po­nent to the ar­ro­gant bad guys in his midst. Peo­ple may think in this era of the

and Liam Nee­son Ver­sion 2.0 that such a hero is some­thing new. He’s al­ways been some­thing of a sta­ple character though, and if you don’t be­lieve it, check out crusty, old, one-armed Spencer Tracy kick­ing ass in Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) or a pouchy, 50-some­thing Gary Cooper strid­ing de­ter­minedly to a deadly show­down in High Noon (1952). The Equal­izer, a movie ver­sion of the Ed­ward Wood­ward TV se­ries from the 1980s, casts Den­zel Wash­ing­ton, 59, as its eas­ily un­der­es­ti­mated hero, and this is a good thing. In emo­tional re­pose, Wash­ing­ton’s face sug­gests decades of ex­pe­ri­ence and no small amount of re­gret. You’ve heard the ex­pres­sion “soul­less killer.” Wash­ing­ton adeptly sug­gests a soul­ful killer. Wash­ing­ton’s Robert McCall is in­tro­duced a peace­able guy. He works at a big-box hard­ware store and en­joys a pa­ter­nal re­la­tion­ship with his fel­low em­ploy­ees. He lives alone in a neat, spar­tan Bos­ton apart­ment. Trou­bled by sleep­less­ness, he oc­ca­sion­ally steps out into the night to drink tea at a 24-hour diner where he forms a ban­ter­ing re­la­tion­ship with the trou­bled teen pros­ti­tute Ilena (Chloë Grace Moretz), dis­cussing, among other things, Ernest Hem­ing­way’s The Old Man and the Sea. Points to screen­writer Richard Wenk for the way th­ese dis­cus­sions will fore­shadow McCall’s decision to be true to his vi­o­lent na­ture and take on the Rus­sian pimps who will later beat up Ilena. “The old man’s got to be the old man,” McCall says. “The fish has got to be the fish.” Right. And a for­mer gov­ern­ment agent trained in the art of killing has got to kill bad guys when they fool­ishly mock his at­tempt to buy Ilena’s free­dom. Un­for­tu­nately, this move will re­sult in the pimps’ boss de­ploy­ing the de­cep­tively-named Teddy (Martin Csokas), a psy­cho­pathic ex-KGB mob fixer not afraid to dec­i­mate Bos­ton’s en­tire crim­i­nal el­e­ment to find and de­stroy McCall. Di­rec­tor An­toine Fuqua em­ploys a slow-burn pac­ing that ad­mirably ratch­ets up the ten­sion. It’s almost a half-hour be­fore the movie’s first dis­play of vi­o­lence, and by the time it comes, it’s ex­plo­sive. Un­for­tu­nately, nei­ther Fuqua nor screen­writer Wenk can sus­tain that ten­sion over the film’s two-hours-plus run­ning time. It doesn’t re­ally help ei­ther that the ac­tion gets a lit­tle lu­di­crous to­wards the end. (As much as we may ad­mire McCall’s do-it-your­self sen­si­bil­ity when it comes to weaponry, a trained sol­dier of McCall’s ilk prob­a­bly wouldn’t use a nail gun when a felled en­emy’s as­sault ri­fle is eas­ily avail­able.) Still, The Equal­izer proves to be a lot more en­gag­ing than its re­cy­cled TV premise would sug­gest. Fuqua in­vests the film with lots of bur­nished at­mos­phere and top-notch pro­duc­tion val­ues. And Wash­ing­ton gives the pro­ceed­ings some nec­es­sary dig­nity and grace. This is no small ac­com­plish­ment when many of his ac­tions wouldn’t be out of character for a Michael My­ers or a Ja­son Voorhees.

COLUMBIA PIC­TURES

McCall (Den­zel Wash­ing­ton, top) takes out a thug (Nash Edgergton) in The Equal­izer.

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