Monthly Archives: October 2014

“The Age of Love,” Reviewed: Senior Class.

A scene from "The Age of Love."

A scene from “The Age of Love.”

First-time documentary filmmaker Steven Loring has roared out of the gate with The Age of Love (not rated), a bright and respectfully playful feature that throws a spotlight on an unsung population segment: Senior citizens, seeking companionship, romance and maybe more. Local audiences who haven’t already bought tickets currently have one chance to see this movie – some seats are still available for the 6:30pm show tonight at the Little Theatre, 240 East Ave. in Rochester. Consider it highly recommended.

Loring, a Brighton native, used a local occasion as the nexus for his honest and occasionally hilarious debut feature. The film, which centers around a 2011 speed-dating event that was organized exclusively for seniors, profiles roughly a dozen men and women before and during the session – and then follows a few of the newly created couples as they tentatively approach their first dates.

First, though, we get to know the subjects including Addie, a free spirit and world traveler looking to find a spark with a new partner; Lou, an octogenarian bodybuilder who’s unsure of what an age-appropriate dating pool looks like; Matt, a pragmatist who carries an oxygen tank and is hopeful about finding a new partner; and Donna, who sips out of a “Grandma” cup with equal parts appreciation and irony.

These seniors and the others profiled in the film are given plenty of room to muse on the immutability of romantic longing – just because they’re older doesn’t mean they don’t have the same needs, wants and desires as women and men half their age. To his credit, Loring doesn’t patronize – he brings a humanist’s eye to the plight of these folks who didn’t expect to find themselves alone at this point in their lives, and who approach the upcoming speed-dating event with a mix of hopefulness and guarded indifference.

The big day itself is oddly anticlimactic and occasionally frustrating, as the attendees move through their designated seat assignments with an amiable awkwardness that’s probably present at any speed-dating session. (At any age, moving around a room in a carefully choreographed fashion to briefly flirt with different prospective partners has got to be an unnerving experience.) But the film’s most honest and emotionally moving moment comes later, when the filmmaker reconnects with his subjects to be there with a camera and record their reactions to getting the news about which attendees they’ve been matched with. Their nervousness is palpable, and we find we’ve really come to root for these people – we want their envelopes to bring good news, on their terms.

Audiences from our area may find a familiar face or two, and the settings will ring a bell. But The Age of Love isn’t some geographic curiosity – this thoughtful doc should play equally well to any age and any ZIP code. Like its subjects, it deserves to have audiences fall in love with it.

“Men, Women & Children,” Reviewed: Control, Alt and (Especially) Delete.

Kaitlyn Dever and Jennifer Garner in "Men, Women & Children." (Paramount)

Kaitlyn Dever and Jennifer Garner in “Men, Women & Children.” (Paramount)

Is it too soon to stage an intervention for Jason Reitman? The director started off strong a decade ago, choosing smart projects (Thank You For Smoking, Juno) and executing with deft precision. Young Adult and Up in the Air connected more with critics than audiences, but last year’s Labor Day was an unqualified dud – maudlin, predictable tripe that wasted abundant talent on both sides of the camera. Now with Men, Women & Children (rated R) he’s veered even further off course – not just off the highway, but past the dirt road and full on into a cornfield. He’s created an alarmist cautionary tale for the Internet Age with all the subtlety and nuance of one of those Very Special Episodes of your favorite TV sitcom.

Based on the 2011 novel by Chad Kultgen, Men, Women & Children looks at the pervasive technology habits in use at a number of households in Austin, Texas:

  • A unhappily married couple (Adam Sandler and RoseMarie DeWitt) have more in common than they think, as she discovers a website devoted to facilitating adulterous hookups just as he begins using an online escort service. Meanwhile, dad has ruined his own computer with too many viruses from searching porn sites, and is reduced to using his son’s PC when no one’s home.
  • A single mom (Judy Greer) feeds her teenage daughter’s (Olivia Crocicchia) craving for future reality-show stardom by helping her develop a promotional website featuring modeling shots that veer into softcore images.
  • The high school’s star quarterback (Ansel Elgort) quits the team in the wake of his mother abandoning him and his dad (Dean Norris), and now spends his free time with online role-playing games and mumbling about how no one would miss him if he were gone.
  • An overprotective mom (Jennifer Garner), absolutely freaked out by the corruptive potential of modern technology, uses every digital tool at her disposal to monitor the online movements of her daughter (Kaitlyn Dever), while hosting a local support group to warn other parents.
  • Meanwhile, for no discernible reason, the disembodied voice of Emma Thompson narrates the saga, while occasionally ruminating on the interstellar travels of the Voyager spacecraft and comparing that journey to Sandler’s search for a good porn site.

By rights, Sandler’s presence ought to be the most worrisome element among those descriptions; but he’s not bad in a role that requires him to underplay to his more dynamic spouse. Garner, uncomfortably at home in the role of a harridan, never gives us a glimpse of what might have propelled her character into such an alarmist status quo. Norris and Greer make momentary sparks in a flirtatious subplot that begins at one of Garner’s support-group meetings, but they’re ultimately unexplored and uninteresting. Of the teens, only newcomer Crocicchia offers a real spark of authenticity as a high-school opportunist who uses casual sex as a form of social networking.

One of the risks of a sprawling narrative is that no story will be developed enough to be interesting; that happens pretty consistently here, as any one of these families might have produced a meaty enough story to hold our attention for 90 minutes. As is, the script spreads everyone too thin, while never attempting to explore the bigger questions about our obsession with technological connectivity that might show us something we haven’t seen before.

Through it all, Reitman treats his story with a degree of solemnity usually reserved for writings found on stone tablets. He seems to think he’s discovered a new idea here, but any parent – heck, any person – who’s ever regretted spending time online will watch this film and think, “Well, obviously.” I can’t imagine that’s the reaction he was going for, but it’s all he’s going to get. Men, Women & Children might convince you to unplug, all right – from the films of Jason Reitman.

“The Judge,” Reviewed: A Trial of Errors.

Robert Downey, Jr., and Robert Duvall in “The Judge.” (Warner Bros.)

Robert Downey, Jr., and Robert Duvall in “The Judge.” (Warner Bros.)

Robert Downey, Jr., has been acting for more than 30 years, and no one was happier than I to see his career resurgence – after too much time wasted on drugs and prison – beginning with Iron Man in 2008. He’s now a 49-year-old Golden Boy of Hollywood, and his effortless charm seems capable of carrying him through whatever passes for retirement age in the movie industry. But that’s no excuse for phoning in a performance, or agreeing to star in a hackneyed, formulaic film. And I’m sorry to say that’s exactly what The Judge (rated R) is.

Downey plays Hank Palmer, an obscenely wealthy big-city defense attorney with a nice house and an unfaithful wife. Checking his voicemail during a trial, he learns that his mother has died, and he’s needed back in rural Indiana – for the funeral, and to endure long, painful scenes with his cantankerous father (Robert Duvall), the long-sitting judge in Hank’s hometown.

It seems Hank and his father haven’t spoken in years, thanks to some teenage misbehavior that led to a serious schism between father and son. “I wish I loved you more,” the elder Palmer tells Hank, and Duvall – an old pro even with this tired material – is convincing as someone who really wishes his unwanted houseguest would leave.

Unfortunately for all, providence arranges for Hank to stick around when the Judge is arrested for murder – a John Grisham-esque twist that puts Hank in the role of defense attorney, and sends the story into a convoluted tailspin of odd small-town secrets, long-festering feuds and trite family-drama clichés that are telegraphed a mile away.

While in town, the crusading attorney re-connects with his brothers (Vincent Donofrio and Jeremy Strong), one of whom has a learning disability; and with an old girlfriend (Vera Farmiga) whose grown daughter creates a bizarre conflict for Hank when he picks her up in a bar.

The Judge is the handiwork of David Dobkin, a comedy director who’s worked frequently with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, together or separately, in Clay Pigeons, Wedding CrashersFred Claus and Shanghai Knights. He’s never tackled drama before, and it shows – scenes that are written for high tension seem to waiting for audience laughter that will never come. Downey’s character in particular is an awkward mix of one-liners and angsty middle-son resentment; he’s neither forthright enough to be admirable nor naughty enough to be a proper antihero.

I really enjoyed one small but potent scene between these two veteran actors – a father-and-son eldercare moment that showcases Duvall’s vulnerability and Downey’s compassion. But that’s not enough to win The Judge its freedom from a guilty verdict of bad writing and limp direction. Case dismissed.

ImageOUT and About: Go See “Lilting” Tonight.

Naomi Christie and Ben Whishaw in "Lilting." (Photo courtesy of ImageOUT)

Naomi Christie and Ben Whishaw in “Lilting.” (Photo courtesy of ImageOUT)

No other individual film in this year’s ImageOUT Film Festival – and few other films this year – moved me as much as Lilting, a restrained yet passionate drama from writer/director Hong Khaou that plays for one night only, today at 6:30pm at the Little Theatre. Written with the intimacy of a staged production, this modest British work – the result of a UK low-budget film initiative sponsored by BBC Films –  brims with love and affection, grief and grace. I expect it to make my shortlist of the year’s best films.

At its core, Lilting is a universal tale of how loss creates a hole that cries out to be filled. Ben Whishaw (perhaps best known as the new Q in Skyfall) plays Richard, a young man whose slender shoulders carry a large burden: Devastated by the sudden death of his lover Kai (Andrew Leung), he’s determined to find a way to connect with Kai’s mother, an elderly Chinese woman now living in a London nursing home. Kai had wrestled with the dilemma of what to do with his mother – and how she might react to his being gay – but his unexpected passing leaves those questions to Richard, who’s separated from Junn (Pei-pei Cheng) by a language barrier and so much more.

Junn, too, is grief-stricken by the loss of her son – and unlike Richard, she can’t even find solace in her environment. To her, Richard was Kai’s roommate, and the main reason she couldn’t move in with her son when he was alive. Now she’s trapped and alone – notwithstanding a friendly but not quite comprehending English-speaking staff and the polite yet bawdy affections of another resident of the home (Peter Bowles). Richard hires a translator (Naomi Christie) and begins the awkward process of reaching out to Junn – no small feat, given her reluctance to let him in and his own feelings of powerless to explain just how much her son meant to him.

Khaou’s story is simple and well told: Instead of tacking on unnecessary subplots, he uses gentle contemplative moments (Richard admiring the wallpaper in Junn’s room; a sweeping pan across the gardens of the nursing home) as grace notes between some of the more uncomfortable interactions among the characters. Flashbacks to previous conversations with Kai fill in some of the narrative gaps, while offering reminders of what Junn and Richard have both lost.

A long time ago, Cheng was a dynamic force as the martial-arts expert Jade Fox in Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; here she’s worlds away from that fantasy, but no less captivating as a strong-willed survivor. And Whishaw is a revelation, expertly navigating the rocky terrain of sadness and supportiveness without a stumble.

I hope Lilting comes back soon for a more lengthy run. But we all owe ImageOUT a debt of thanks for bringing it to town.

ImageOUT and About: Oct. 13 and 14.

Emmanuelle Devos in Violette. (Photo courtesy ImageOUT)

Emmanuelle Devos in Violette. (Photo courtesy ImageOUT)

Here are highlights of today’s and tomorrow’s programming from the 2014 ImageOUT Film Festival:

Polish director Jan Kidawa-Błoński’s In Hiding (Little Theatre, 6pm Oct. 13) is a smart, stylish psychosexual thriller set in Nazi-occupied Poland toward the end of World War II. It’s the story of a young cellist (Magdalena Boczarska) whose reluctant protection of a Jew in hiding (Julia Pogrebińska) evolves into an altogether different – and more menacing – kind of relationship. It’s far removed from your typical Holocaust movie.

Biopics can too often be dull, romanticized affairs, but the French drama Violette (Little Theatre, 8:15pm Oct. 14) is a cut above: It showcases its subject, the prickly and neurotic mid-20th century author Violette Leduc (Emmanuelle Devos), with an unsympathetic tone that’s still suffused with passion and surprising tenderness. A centerpiece of Martin Provost’s film concerns Leduc’s unrequited ardor for Simone De Beauvoir (Sandrine Kiberlain), in a relationship that’s ultimately healthier for Leduc’s writing than for her heart.

Sometimes a film festival is the perfect place to revisit an old friend. Norman René’s groundbreaking film about living and dying with AIDS, Longtime Companion (Dryden Theatre, 8pm Oct. 14), turns 25 this year – and while that distance may make some of its references seem antique, the lasting power of its anguished, intimate story can’t be denied. Dermot Mulroney, Campbell Scott and Bruce Davison lead a solid cast of familiar faces in René’s episodic slice-of-life tale of gay New Yorkers living in the shadow of the “gay cancer.” If you haven’t seen it before, there’s no better time.

Visit the ImageOUT website or a complete film schedule and ticket details.

“Hector and the Search for Happiness,” Reviewed: Safari So Good.

hector and the search for happiness (blog)

Simon Pegg in Hector and the Search for Happiness. (Relativity Media)

There are two kinds of people in the world: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty people, and Hector and the Search for Happiness (rated R) people. Both films feature milquetoasts who break free of lives of urban banality to find fulfillment through spur-of-the-moment decisions to embark on personally unprecedented globe-trotting adventures. Both films offer breathtaking scenery and remarkably convenient plot contrivances. But only one works. For me, it was Hector. And I’ll tell you why.

First, Simon Pegg > Ben Stiller. Pegg, the British comic actor whose what-am-I-doing-here everyman panic has brightened the new Star Trek and Mission: Impossible action franchises, is utterly credible as Hector, a London psychiatrist who examines his regimented, contented lifestyle and finds it lacking – well, the film calls it “happiness,” but really he’s bored. Sensing the same in his patients, he declares himself on a working holiday and books round-the-world travel plans in a haphazard attempt to find the passion he’s missing at home with his prim but fun pharma-rep girlfriend Clara (Gone Girl’s Rosamund Pike).

In Mitty, Stiller’s glum affect felt awkward and stagy – it was hard to root for a guy who seemed unable to get out of his own way. But Pegg’s safari is engaging from the start, thanks mostly to a leading man who projects likable confusion rather than ominous portent.

Next, Peter Chelsom is Back. Chelsom, Hector’s director, is probably best known now for his weak 2001 John Cusack-Kate Beckinsale romcom Serendipity. But a decade earlier he debuted with Hear My Song, a positively delightful small-scale musical, and Funny Bones (1995), a low-budget English comedy that skillfully blended sweet and tart (and gave Jerry Lewis the late-career role he’d been waiting for). Those films showcased Chelsom’s ability to effervesce – to make intimate entertainments that bubbled with organic enthusiasm. So naturally, he followed them up with generic Hollywood projects like The Mighty and the English-language remake of Shall We Dance. Sigh.

His subject matter here has all the hallmarks of a big-budget schmaltzfest – Walter Mitty pretty much blazed that trail last year – and yet the film still finds lightness in its step, resisting the urge to oversentimentalize and showing Hector actually facing peril in Africa, getting chewed out by an old flame (Toni Collette) in the States, and encountering genuine indecision about what to do about his girlfriend back home. The stakes are real: Hector is a fish out of water, but unlike Stiller’s Mitty, he’s committed – he’s no tourist.

Finally, It’s Unpredictably Unpredictable. You can’t say a film is about the search for happiness and not have people leave the theater unhappy. But for all that, I didn’t expect Chelsom’s screenplay (co-written with Tinker Lindsay and Maria von Heland) to veer down the path it ultimately chose. Mitty’s denouement was pretty easy to spot halfway into the film, but Hector is faced with actual choices on his quest – and that gives this whimsical lark a touch of surprising heft.

Though it might inspire audience members to spend a few minutes exploring travel options at, Hector and the Search for Happiness won’t change anyone’s life. It’s a well-made, warm-hearted comedy with a comfortable sense of its own limitations – and charm to spare. I wish there were more like this one.

ImageOUT and About: Saturday, October 11.

cupcakes (jewish film fest) blog

The cast of Cupcakes.

Here are some of the highlights of today’s schedule from the ImageOUT Film Festival, running through October 19.

Stand, an affecting drama from Jonathan Taieb, offers a painterly slice-of-life portrait of modern Moscow – and drops into its center the specter of violence that upends the lives of Anton and Vlad (Renat Shuteev, Andrey Kurganov), a gay couple who are compelled to learn who’s responsible for a series of homophobic attacks. It’s a startling divergence from typical crime dramas, thanks mostly to the winning and authentic portrayals of the two leads. We come to care about them before we’re asked to care about their quest – and that makes all the difference.

Cupcakes is fun – a candy-colored, buoyant romp, brimming with nostalgia, good music and a strong sense of purpose. In this import from Israel (seen locally earlier this year in an ImageOUT-sponsored screening during the Rochester Jewish Film Festival), a group of exuberant friends record an impromptu performance of an original song on a cell phone – and soon find themselves propelled into an international televised music competition. It’s a remarkable change of pace for Israeli director Eytan Fox, whose past films (including Yossi & Jagger and The Bubble) featured a much more heavily dramatic tone.

The fascinating documentary The Dog takes a long look at the life and background of a figure many film lovers may feel they already know: John Wojtowicz, the would-be bank robber of 1975’s Dog Day Afternoon who needed money to pay for his partner’s sex change. Directors Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren give Wojtowicz plenty of room to tell his story, and in the process create a remarkably frank self-portrait that blends ego and devotion, humor and sensitivity.

For a complete schedule, and more info on upcoming films, visit

Film Fest News: ImageOUT, High Falls and More.

We love our festivals around here. If you like onions or grapes, garlic or Greeks, jazz or lilacs, we’ve got something that’s right up your alley. And if you’re a movie fan … well, buckle up, because October has two regional film festivals coming up this year, starting this weekend.

imageout copyThe ImageOUT Film Festival (October 10-19) began in 1993 with a mission to celebrate the cultural contributions and experiences of the LGBT community. Today it’s one of the most accomplished and respected LGBT film fests in the country, and the next 10 days will give audiences something to talk about all over again. I’ll be looking at some of the fest’s standout films over the next week – it’s really something special.

HF3_Logo_FINALWhen it debuted in 2001, the High Falls Film Festival (October 23-26) was a woman-themed autumn event; later it moved to the spring, then later still it shifted focus to general-interest programming. Now it’s back to its roots, with a fall focus on films made by women or that reflect women’s stories. An earlier report that Oscar nominee Virginia Madsen would be in attendance has been updated – Madsen has cancelled due to a scheduling conflict – but her mother, Elaine Madsen, will be in town to promote I Know a Woman Like That, the doc she directed (and her daughter produced). I’ll have more details on other films in the next couple of weeks, or visit their site for ticket info.

It’s six still months away, but yet another new film festival was announced this month: the Fast Forward Film Festival (April 17-18, 2015) is a planned short-film event that will consist exclusively of original films from our region, telling stories with a focus on environmental awareness. (The Greentopia | FILM fest, currently gearing up for its third year, has a similar mission but with films submitted from around the world as well as a program of locally sourced programming.) Organizers plan a juried event that will assess submissions and bestow cash awards to winners on the basis of three categories. Submissions are due February 27.

“Gone Girl,” Reviewed: Love, American Style.

gone girl (fox) blog

David Fincher can build a scene of nightmarish audiovisual intensity like no one else working today. His latest example of this falls in the third act of his tenth feature, Gone Girl (rated R), with a sex scene that starts off merely sordid and swiftly escalates into a masterpiece of Grand Guignol horror. It’s a startling moment of visceral power that gives physical weight to the mental torment and misery inflicted upon – and by – Nick and Amy Dunne (Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike), the marrieds at the center of this bizarrely intimate domestic thriller.

Based on Gillian Flynn’s bestselling 2012 novel (with a screenplay by Flynn), Gone Girl is loaded with creaky plot points, but it’s a credit to all involved that you just don’t care. It draws you in and closes the door behind you before you even realize you’re in a dark room, trusting your hosts to show you the way out. The story pivots on a single moment of discovery: On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick – a failed journalist turned frustrated bar owner who knows he’s married above his station – comes home to find his house in a shambles. Amy – a New York trust-fund sophisticate who moved with Nick to his Missouri hometown after an economic downturn – is nowhere to be found.

The local police (Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit) investigate with practiced gusto, but can find neither Amy (or her body) nor enough evidence to implicate Nick – who, it soon becomes clear, had plenty of reasons to want to be free of his wife. Five years together was more than enough time for the cracks to show in this initially watertight union; through first-person flashbacks of Amy reading her journal, we follow the slow erosion from Happily Ever After to ’Til Death Do Us Part. Fincher and Flynn work together to chronicle that awful progression with sharp, poignant glee – they’re twisting a cynical knife in the back of the very institution of marriage, and having a grand old time in the process.

What they don’t do – for the first hour, at least – is explain exactly what the heck is going on. What happened to Amy? Was Nick involved? And is that second question more complicated than it sounds? All is made clear, of course, and not without a certain degree of fuzzy logic being unspooled along the way. Gone Girl isn’t a flawless film, but its sureness of purpose and the talent with which it tells its tale make it sticky: No one who see it will forget it any time soon. That kind of greatness doesn’t always win awards, but it’s more meaningful in its own way.

Much of the picture’s success is carried on the backs of a stellar cast. Pike’s ice-queen elegance would have made her right at home in any Hitchcock film, and she’s really fine here as a complex woman unfairly dismissed by everyone as being someone’s daughter, someone’s neighbor, someone’s wife. And Affleck, whose skills as an actor have never matched his recently discovered directorial talent, taps into his well-earned underachiever persona to deliver a definitive performance: His Nick is the promising youth who never goes anywhere but back home, and whose sole life’s achievement – marrying well – eventually turns black and sour.

Fincher has attracted criticism over the years for misogynistic themes woven into his films, but if that trait isn’t completely absent here, his sights are trained on a bigger target – he’s taking aim at our modern ideas of marriage and family, and giving us all permission to look with a jaundiced eye at those we might otherwise hold dear. I’d tell you I loved Gone Girl, but suddenly I’m not sure the phrase doesn’t sound a little more ironic than it used to.

(IMAGE: Ben Affleck in Gone Girl. Photo courtesy 20th Century Fox.)

“The Equalizer,” Reviewed: Cheer Down.

the equalizer (columbia) blog

Throughout The Equalizer (rated R), Denzel Washington looks unhappy to be there. He plays Robert McCall, a taciturn soul who barely gets along with his co-workers at a Home Depot-style big box store; they all treat him like an elder statesman, asking for advice or quizzing him idly about his past, and he dutifully nods his head and punches in and out, heading home each night to a Spartan apartment and a dull routine. Robert, we can see, is itching for the meaning that’s been lost from his life – he’s waiting for the right opportunity to do what he was meant to do.

I hope it’s not hard to see where I’m going with this.

Denzel Washington has no business making The Equalizer. I know this comes just a week after I praised Liam Neeson’s performance in A Walk Among the Tombstones, another elder-actor-kicks-butt crime story, but not all films are created equal – and Neeson’s latest is a fully formed work with texture and depth. Equalizer, on the other hand, keeps us waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for our reluctant hero to head into the Hand Tools aisle to grab a hammer and start pounding evil. It’s a tease, and one that’s still unfulfilling even when the cathartic moments finally arrive. He deserves better than this – and so do we.

Based loosely on the 1980s TV show that played to the vicarious wishes of CBS’s graying audience, The Equalizer is the story of an older gentleman who has forgotten more about violent retribution than most tough guys in their prime will ever learn. In the ’80s McCall was played by the wonderful English actor Edward Woodward with genteel authority; Washington just scowls at his enemies, before setting the timer on his digital wristwatch to check his efficiency at killing them.

McCall is retired from a shadowy life as a Special Forces soldier, but he’s persuaded to return to his old tricks when a call girl he meets at a diner (Chloe Grace Moretz) is beaten to a pulp by her employers. They die quickly; but we soon learn they were members of the Russian mob – via central casting – which means even more villains soon arrive on the plane from Moscow and begin the most violent game of tit-for-tat, ever.

This film is directed by Antoine Fuqua, which is coincidentally the same name of the guy who directed Washington in Training Day, way back in 2001. That film reinvigorated Washington’s career, at a time when his onscreen earnestness quotient had achieved biblical levels – after The Hurricane and Malcolm X and Remember the Titans and even The Pelican Brief, he needed to add some zest to his resume before we started building statues in his honor. Now, though, it’s as if he doesn’t know how to do anything but mindless action movies – and unlike Neeson, he doesn’t seem to enjoy doing them.

Reuniting Fuqua and Washington might have seemed like a good idea, but by now I wonder if Washington’s dour depressiveness won’t just suck all the air out of any room. There’s no life to this film – not when he’s chatting with Moretz’ gum-cracking lady of the evening, not when he’s staring down Russian goons, and certainly not when he’s turning his workplace into an after-hours collection of booby traps for an extended final-reel set piece. A good action movie should feel exhilarating, but The Equalizer is just tiresome. It’s not hard to understand why Washington’s McCall looks so down; his audience feels the same way.

(IMAGE: Denzel Washington in The Equalizer. Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures.)