In Review: The Equalizer

by Daniel Goodwin on 26/09/2014


Director Antoine Fuqua’s remake of the 80s Edward Woodward series is, on the surface, a glossy, revenge thriller with gritty, urban staples but the overall effect is Expendables-like: randomly interjected clichés siphon the drama with banal action silage.

Denzel Washington is Robert McCall, a hardware store clerk with a furtive past, now living a humble existence helping those dear to him. McCall’s morals get the better of him when Chloe Moretz’s powerless prostitute Teri enters his life. Enraged and empathetic, McCall wipes out the gang responsible for hurting Teri but attracts attention from double-crossing cops and a syndicate head who sends out a psychotic, Russian assassin (Marton Csokas) to take him out.

Despite the Stallone and co similarities, which are understandable considering the writers were Richard Wenk (The Expendables), Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim (the original Equalizer series), Fuqua’s Equalizer is reminiscent of the 70s and 80s urban cop thrillers of Walter Hill and William Lustig. But where those were synonymous with their time and setting, The Equalizer is a slick, monochrome hybrid, incorporating elements more associated with bland 80s mainstream action as well as Rolling Thunder (1977) and Death Wish (1974).

The Equalizer is fun at times but definitely suffers from an identity crisis. Fuqua’s serious tone combined with a dawdling first half, underdeveloped characters and an emaciated narrative definitely makes it wane before its runtime of over two hours is up. McCall’s Sherlock-like ability to detach himself from perilous situations and swiftly assess threat elements prior to attack is emphasised in slow-motion segments before fight sequences but inner conflicts and complexities are not emphasised enough or expressed in relation to the story.

It’s enjoyable but lacking in the high-octane audacity of Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen (2013), which boasted explosive yet realistic action, and the potent character drama of Training Day (2001).

Well directed punch-ups provide blasts of fun but its over-stylised visuals and outlandishness clash hard with the gritty content. Fuqua’s remake is slick but soulless with a decent, but hardly challenging, performance from Washington and a wavering Moretz in an underused but pivotal role. Its stylish action is passable kafuffle and entertaining enough but sadly generic considering the talent on board.

Daniel has awarded The Equalizer two Torches of Truth


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