Do a Shot: every time someone asks “Who are you?”
Take a Drink: for every time the explosion shot is recycled during the sabotage sequence.
Take a Drink: for every instance of slow motion
Take a Drink: for every hamfisted literary analysis/reference.
By: Hawk Ripjaw (Two Beers) –
One of the things I remember most vividly from The Equalizer is the group of three 20-somethings in front of me frequently getting out their phones to check the time, while two of them passed a brightly flashing Bluetooth back and forth and the girl got up and left at least 6 or 7 times. The guy also answered the Bluetooth at one point. As we filed out at the end of the movie, I was about to mention to this group how much their behavior pissed me off until I saw that one of the guys had dollar signs tattooed on his knuckles, so at that point I made the decision to not get murdered tonight. It’s a good thing the movie was badass enough that I still consider it a pleasant moviegoing experience.
Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is a guy with the kind of meticulous routine and quiet brooding that makes teens wish they had OCD. He times himself frequently, obsessively devours books, and daily frequents a diner to which he brings a teabag and his latest read, before which he carefully lays out the contents of the table. There, he befriends Russian prostitute Teri (Chloe “I don’t think she’s 18 yet so this is weird” Moretz) and sympathizes with her plight of knocking her around and making her bang fat people, and eventually beat her up so badly she ends up in a coma. His first course of action is to try to buy her freedom from her pimp with almost $10,000. When the pimp and his buddies tell him to fuck off and then make fun of him, Robert ends up slaughtering all of them in a sequence whose visual panache would give Sherlock Holmes a respectable boner.
Such is the nastiness of the killing (hint: corkscrew though the chin, among other things) that the higher-ups of the Russian organization send in their cleaner, a guy nicknamed Teddy who’s so damn evil and mean that within a couple of days in town, he insults the people working for him, punches a guy to death, and murders a prostitute, all in the name of hunting down Robert. But Robert doesn’t play that shit, so he responds in kind to Teddy’s henchmen.
A handful of us here at MovieBoozer (myself included) felt that director Fuqua’s previous film Olympus Has Fallen was a massive piece of shit. It was badly directed, aggressively over-serious, and filled with CGI that looked like it was done by an amateur using a 30-day free trial of Adobe After Effects.
Refreshingly, such is not the case with The Equalizer, where Fuqua’s direction is airtight. The CGI looks better, the cinematography is tense and brooding, and Fuqua pulls great performances out of almost everyone. It’s almost as though he sat back and had a unit director take over the entire production of Olympus Has Fallen while he did it, because the difference here is night and day.
The whole thing has the vibe of an 80’s exploitation action flick, ridiculous and overwrought in the absolute best way. One minor villain is literally first seen sitting upon a large pile of money. The “walking away from an explosion without looking” is cranked up to hilarious levels here, with the destruction of a Russian-owned tanker so ludicrously exaggerated that you can see its reflection on a chrome gas truck, which itself follows suit seconds later. While it never dives into self-parody, one villain has a long beard and a mustache so pointy you could impale some olives on it and there’s a sense of self-awareness with the excess.
And you all know there’s nothing old Hawk Ripjaw loves more than a badass killing the fuck out of bad guys. This is a good one to see in a packed theater where everyone can enjoy the vicious creativity of some of these kills. The grand finale, in which everyone reunites at the hardware store and McCall uses the plethora of tools at his disposal to manufacture all manner of traps and weapons, is masterfully staged and ranks among the best action movie climaxes in recent memory.
Martin Csokas is amazing as Teddy, and a fine match for the always-excellent Washington. The scenes in which they interact are dripping with tension. Teddy is fucking terrifying.
The script is written by the guy that wrote The Expendables 2, which should be all I need to tell you about that. While this does have a bit more complexity than that action bonanza, the script for The Equalizer is not nearly as clever as it wishes it was. The books Robert reads are all allegorical for the man himself, such as The Invisible Man, The Old Man and the Sea, and Don Quixote, which is not specifically referenced but rather referred to as being about “a knight in a world where knights are dead” or something along those lines to suggest that Robert is a man apart. In addition, the scenes between Robert and Teri are poorly scripted to the point where they’re vaguely creepy on a Babylon AD “Are they gonna bang” level.
Certain story beats feel as though a piece of the script was excised, as various things are a bit under-explained.
I will humbly eat my words here: I’m not a very big fan of Antoine Fuqua given his recent work (King Arthur, Olympus Has Fallen) but damn it if The Equalizer isn’t just entertaining as all hell. Robert McCall is a force of fucking nature, with exactly one scene in the entire movie where he is actually in peril. And it fully embraces the R rating, too, with some extremely nasty violence at the hands of both McCall and the villains. Such a brutal, confident thriller is fairly rare anymore, and The Equalizer is a breath of fresh air.