In the 1980s, the late Edward Woodward drove a Jag around the streets of New York as ex-spy Robert McCall, who helped the innocent and the weak against the evil and the mighty. I remember enjoying this television show as a kid. Now Denzel Washington replaces Woodward as McCall in a humorless reboot. He doesn’t drive a Jag; he dresses like someone’s dad. He now haunts the baddies of Boston, not New York City. After befriending a young Russian escort (Chloe Grace Moretz) who gets badly beaten by her pimp, McCall runs afoul of the Russian mob, after he slaughters a roomful of toughs. Now, he must duel sociopath Teddy (Martin Csokas) if he ever wants return to his quiet life at the corner diner and a fake Home Depot.
Director Antoine Fuqua could have cut out 10 or more minutes of this too-long but entertaining action flick. Even in his reunion with Washington, Fuqua fails to recapture that Training Day magic, which, it’s certainly arguable, could be attributed to the ever more intriguing David Ayer, who wrote Training Day and has since helmed several excellent crime thrillers highlighted by End of Watch (I cannot wait for his newest film, the WWII tank drama Fury). The Equalizer is pretty much paint-by-numbers. Even its style fails to stand out. Multiple slow-motion extreme close-ups of water dripping from Washington’s eyelashes do not add depth; they merely add to the bloated running time.
Richard Wenk contributes a much less interesting script than Ayer would have. Being released a week after the similar A Walk Among Tombstones has done the movie little favor. Washington is quite solid as the aging badass, though the role could have just as easily been filled by Liam Neeson. No one would notice if Neeson and Washington had swapped recent roles; either would have been more than serviceable in this flick or in A Walk Among Tombstones.) This crime thriller is entertaining, but one wishes this potential new franchise had started in medias res with Washington’s McCall responding to his Craig’s List ad, “Odds against you? Need help?” in the beginning, instead of just getting around to placing the ad at the end.
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