When going gets tough, a killer has got to be a killer
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.
McCall (Denzel Washington, top) takes out a thug (Nash Edgergton) in The Equalizer.