Tag Archives: denzel washington

I’m Surprised How Much I Didn’t Mind ‘The Equalizer 2’

It’s amazing that even in these “throwaway” roles, Denzel Washington still manages to show why he is one of the greatest actors the world has ever known.

“The Equalizer 2” is the sequel to the 2014 film, which was in-turn based off the 1980s TV series of the same name. Denzel Washington stars as Robert McCall, a retired CIA agent who now works as a Lyft driver while helping out the defenseless people. When one of his oldest friends (Melissa Leo) is killed, McCall sets out on a path of revenge. Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders and Bill Pullman as Antoine Fuqua returns to direct.

I really did not enjoy the first “Equalizer” film. I thought it was too self-serious, had horrible pacing and was visually too dark and just ugly to look at. So needless to say I was not looking forward to this needless sequel (the first of Washington’s esteemed career) with any sort of anticipation; and maybe those low expectations had something to do with me enjoying this film a surprising amount.

Fresh off years with back-to-back Best Actor nominations for “Fences” and [sighhh] “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” it is more than fair/expected that Denzel would do a paycheck movie where he doesn’t have to break as much of a sweat. That being said, he doesn’t mail in his performance here and actually is given a surprising amount of emotional range to play with. From grieving the loss of his friend to those classic Denzel-isms like that devil smile or low-grumble voice, this may not be an Oscar-caliber role or performance but Denzel makes sure moviegoers will get their money’s worth of him.

There are a handful of sideplots, including McCall being a mentor to a young man in his apartment complex (Ashton Sanders, best known for “Moonlight”). Denzel, who in real life has spoken up that it is a man’s job to be in the home and be a part of his child’s life, acts as the father figure to Sanders and while the plotline itself is only there to be filler en route to a last minute climatic scene, it holds a nice message at its core.

And I suppose that is one of the film’s issues, is that for the first half there are a lot of tiny “missions” that McCall has to do and none of them really seem important or even get a resolution until the very end of the epilogue. One of them is to show McCall’s mentor side, the other is really just an excuse for the filmmakers to get a manipulative (albeit admittedly effective) heartstring tug, and they really just seem useless in the grander scheme of things. The actual plot, the one sold in the trailers and why people would pay to see an “Equalizer” film, is a little more straightforward than the first film and I enjoyed it, although I have a soft spot for CIA coverups.

The action is much more clean-cut than the first film, too. Whereas that climax took place in a dark Home Depot, this one is set in a seaside town in the middle of a hurricane (where I imagine much of the film’s $62 million budget went). There are some cool kills and moments of tension and I really do think that all but the most demanding junkies will enjoy it.

“The Equalizer 2” is great escapism even if it won’t be memorable. I personally found it to be an improvement on the first installment and continue to appreciate getting to see a legend like Denzel Washington on the big screen every chance I get. There is a small lull in the middle of the film (basically when the sideplots end and the main one comes into focus) but aside from that I was never bored, and think that you’ll find enjoyment in it, as well.

Critic’s Grade: B-

Sony Pictures

‘Magnificent Seven’ a Surprisingly Dull Western

Magnificent_Seven_2016Do yourself a favor and instead of watching this, go watch “3:10 to Yuma” and then “Seven Samurai” (after reading this review of course).


“The Magnificent Seven” is a remake of the 1960 western film of the same name, which in turn was a remake of the 1954 Japanese film, “Seven Samurai.” It stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Byung-hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier as seven outlaws in the 1870s Old West who are hired to save a town from a corrupt industrialist (Peter Sarsgaard). Antoine Fuqua directs.


Fuqua has always been a mixed bag with me. When he tries to make popcorn action films like “Shooter” or “Olympus Has Fallen” the results are good, and the films are fun. However when he tries to elevate his craft to a more serious tone like “The Equalizer” or “Southpaw,” the finished products are meh at best (the exception being “Training Day,” but I haven’t seen that film in a minute). And unfortunately, Fuqua tries to make “Seven” too serious but yet keep a playful tone, and much like “Suicide Squad” the end result is a monotonous mess.


Denzel Washington, much like Tom Hanks, will never turn in a bad performance, no matter what kind of role he is in and he again shows why he is one of the biggest actors of his generation. Washington plays a man with a clouded past and acts in his own self-interests, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a sympathetic heart. Chris Pratt, who is quickly becoming Hollywood’s next big action star, is pretty fun in his role and provides most of the film’s laughs, however at times his character comes off as annoying.


And that is one of the film’s biggest problems: most every character besides Denzel, to varying degrees, is a cartoon. Ethan Hawke hisses during a gunfight, Vincent D’Onofrio speaks in a high-pitch for the entire film and Peter Sarsgaard’s villain is straight out of a Western comic book. Often it gets tedious and at times it becomes laughable, because all these different and quirky personalities never gel.


Fuqua has always been able shoot action scenes well however he also is used to being able to play with an R rating, a luxury he is not allowed here. The film has two main shootout sequences and the final one at the climax (which runs for an ungodly 45 minutes) falls victim to “PG-13 violence,” meaning there is a lot (*a lot*) of rapid fire editing and close-ups of people getting killed.


And let’s talk about that end fight. I touched on how it lasts way too long but it is also the only thing to truly happen in the entire film. The first hour and a half consists of the Seven riding horses and training the townspeople to fire guns. It wasn’t until they were doing the obligatory “final supper before battle” that I realized we were about to enter the climax of the film and nothing had happened yet. The stakes don’t feel earned and since the one single event is dragged out for the entire runtime it makes it difficult for them to be acknowledged at all.


“The Magnificent Seven” is fun in small bursts, and there’s a “summer movie season” vibe about it that is inviting, but the whole film drags along and with its polished, attractive cast and elaborate set pieces, it feels very “2016,” not like a dirty, gritty Western. The film is not magnificent, nor does it score a 7, but look on the bright side: at least Pratt and Washington both get chances to redeem themselves with their new films come December…


Critics Rating: 5/10

Columbia Pictures

Columbia Pictures

‘The Equalizer’ Big on Blood, Bores

The_Equalizer_poster            If you thought Liam Neeson was the only middle aged action star in Hollywood capable of being typecast, think again.

Denzel Washington stars in “The Equalizer”, a film that reunites Washington with his “Training Day” director, Antoine Fuqua. Washington plays a retired intelligence officer who now works at a home improvement store. One day he gets mixed up with the Russian mob while protecting a young call girl, and these Russians must have never seen a Denzel movie before because he sets on a violent path of vengeance. Chloë Grace Moretz and Marton Csokas also star.

Nearing 60 years old and two Oscars in hand, Denzel Washington is at the point in his career that he can pretty much chose whatever role he wants. And as of late, those roles are all men with mysterious pasts and a particular set of skills, such as his parts in “Safe House” and “2 Guns”. “The Equalizer” continues the trend of Denzel killing it in the starring role, but the film itself failing to match his energy.

“The Equalizer” is an over-the-top action film, which acts as more of a highlight reel of cool kills with forced dialogue and backstories used as filler space than a genuine film. Every character not played by Denzel Washington in this film has no true development. Even the girl that the film supposedly revolves around, played by Chloë Grace Moretz, isn’t a true character; she’s just a plot device.

When you’re making an action film, obviously the script isn’t immensely important, but you still can’t be lazy. The script for “Equalizer” involves a man coming out of secret service retirement to get revenge (you know, like “Taken”) in order to face off against the Russian mob (“Training Day”) and features a big finale with elaborate traps inside a house of horrors (“Home Alone”).

The action in the film is competently shot by Fuqua, including a few slowed down “observation shots”, ala “Sherlock Holmes” but the scenes often draw on for too long. I’m all for extended shootouts or seeing Denzel Washington kill a man with a corkscrew, but don’t make it overstay its welcome.

Oh, that’s another thing about this movie, the runtime. It is 131 minutes long (emphasis on “long”). That’s over two hours, and I wager that only 20 of those minutes involve Denzel killing someone, which is what you pay to see. That means about 16% of the film is what we want to see, the rest of the time is spent learning about Washington’s past (which is never fully explained) and meeting characters who are not crucial to the plot, or worse yet, are only there to satisfy a plot point way down the road.

I cannot say “The Equalizer” is a horrible film, because it is not. There are a handful of things it gets right, especially the tension and unease at the start of the film when you know Washington is more than this mild-mannered store employee that he is leading on to be. But there is just so much more I wanted out of this film, and even Denzel Washington’s charming smile and dedicated performance couldn’t win me over. In the end, “The Equalizer” is twice as long and half as fun as it should have been.

Critics Rating: 5/10