Starring: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”)
Written by: Richard Wenk (“The Mechanic,” “16 Blocks”)
“The Equalizer” clearly owes its existence to Liam Neeson’s “Taken,” the Eurotrashy action film that kick-started the so-far Neeson-dominated movie genre of “old guy with a secret single-handedly takes out an entire cartel of bad guys,” only it seems to think it deserves more respect thanks to the presence and charisma of Academy Award-winning star Denzel Washington. It doesn’t, and if the film took itself less seriously, it might have been tons more fun.
Washington stars as Robert McCall, a quiet man living a quietly methodical life in Boston. Working at a Home Depot-ish hardware superstore, McCall is the model diligent employee, handling every situation with a smile and even taking personal time to coach his overweight coworker (Johnny Skourtis) who dreams of becoming a security guard if he can only make the target weight. McCall’s evenings are spent in a diner, where every night he brings his own teabags and a well-worn book. He frequently shares conversations with teenage prostitute Alina (Chloe Grace Moretz), an aspiring singer who slowly opens up to McCall. One night after Alina goes missing after meeting a client, McCall discovers she has been beaten and put into the ICU. McCall pays a visit to her Russian mafia pimp, attempting to buy her freedom. When he is rebuffed, a switch flips and McCall draws upon some long-dormant training to brutally execute the entire crew. This, however, is only the tip of the iceberg, as the full-force of the Russian underworld comes after McCall, who must take them on all alone.
Director Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”) indulges in far too many subplots to keep the movie as brisk as it needed to be. At over two hours, the bloat is obvious, featuring go-nowhere elements like cops that shake down a small Mexican restaurant and the never-ending saga of McCall’s kindly, obese coworker becoming a security guard that should have been left in the editing software’s recycle bin. Heavy-handed allegories to “The Old Man and the Sea” and “Don Quioxte” land with an audible thud, doing nothing except standing in the way of Washington— ever noble even when savagely murdering people — getting to the ass-kicking we all came to see. The outcome never remains in doubt, of course, but it would have been nice to have gotten there in a quicker, no-nonsense fashion.