Long: ‘Equalizer’ is Denzel overkill
With “The Equalizer,” it must be asked: Why does one of America’s most talented actors keep making macho junk?
True, star Denzel Washington paused between gun frenzies in 2012 to make the more thoughtful “Flight,” but for much of the past decade, Washington has insisted on violent cool-guy roles. “Safe House,” “2 Guns,” “The Book of Eli,” “American Gangster” — it’s not that these are necessarily bad movies, but Washington is essentially repeating himself with minor variations.
“The Equalizer” turns out to be the most derivative of the bunch, a slight variation on 2004’s “Man on Fire,” in which Washington played a character who mauls and tortures a succession of bad guys in the hope of rescuing a young girl. The big difference is that “Man on Fire” had some visual flair provided by director Tony Scott. “The Equalizer” is directed by Antoine Fuqua, and its idea of visual flair is a really big fireball.
Based on the ’80s TV show, the film follows Robert McCall, some sort of retired super-spy, now working in a Home Depot knockoff. At night, he goes to a local diner and has tea. There he makes the acquaintance of an under-aged hooker (Chloe Grace Moretz, wasting her time) working for Russian mobsters.
The mobsters put the hooker in the hospital early on, McCall promptly kills her attackers. From there on the movie is basically Denzel killing bad guys in exotic ways. Before the movie’s half over, you’re bored with Denzel wreaking Hollywood-style havoc.
You’d think Denzel would be bored with it, as well. Remember “Malcolm X,” “Glory,” “Crimson Tide,” “Devil in a Blue Dress,” “Inside Man,” “Philadelphia”? You’re better than this, Mr. Washington.
Rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, including some sexual references
Running time: 131 minutes