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