The Equalizer (2014)

Unlikely friends.

Unlikely friends.

The Equalizer is yet another movie I was a bit skeptical at first, seeing how it got a rather less-than-stellar rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I decided to go see it anyway, and in IMAX no less.

The titular equalizer is Robert McCall (Denzel Washington), an employee of a store that is not Home Depot with a mysterious past. He meets Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), a young girl forced into prostitution by the Russian mafia, and takes it upon himself to free her using his skills and training. It isn’t long before the entire mafia is after Robert.

When I saw The Equalizer last night, I felt like it was the movie that 2012’s Safe House should have been as far as action movies featuring Denzel Washington because it was in general more competently put together.

I appreciated the movie having a relatively slow buildup. We see Robert simply trying to live his life without causing or getting any trouble. It’s when he sees the innocent get in harms way that he finally breaks out of his shell and starts kicking some major ass with meticulously planned attacks. The first major fight scene, taking place in a pimp’s office, reminded me of Sherlock Holmes’ pre-planned fights in the Guy Ritchie movies, but still befitting a modern action movie. When it finally took place, it definitely hit hard, though it probably would have hit harder if it wasn’t edited into the movie’s trailer which I have seen aplenty in other movies I’ve been seeing this year.

Overall, the acting was very good all across the board. Denzel Washington proved time and time again that he’s a perfectly capable leading man, which was why I didn’t appreciate his being put into a backseat to Ryan Reynolds in Safe House. Washington deserves a movie all to himself.  I also think New Zealander Marton Csokas deserved credit as the Russian enforcer Teddy. Csokas was absolutely terrifying.

Washington and Csokas benefitted from Antoine Fuqua’s direction. Fuqua really brought a lot out of his actors, and the action sequences had a very nice visual flair. The Equalizer was overall probably one of the more well-shot non-superhero action movies I’ve seen in a while. While it’s nothing to make Skyfall jealous, The Equalizer is overall a very good-looking movie.

This is going to be the first time you’ll ever hear me saying this, especially since I’m a fan of Saving Private Ryan and Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuioku-hen, but I did feel The Equalizer was a bit excessively gory at times. The violent scenes were few and far in between, but I think the few scenes that had action had characters die excessively nasty deaths; one guy taking a corkscrew through his jaw comes to mind. It may have been necessary to remind us that this movie takes place in Boston’s shady underworld, but I think the movie could have been equally enjoyable had the gore been toned down a hair.

We also go through most of the movie without really learning too much about Robert or Teddy outside of their respective exposition dumps. While Teddy was terrifying to watch, his character development really suffered.

Overall, is this movie anywhere near as bad as a score of 59% on Rotten Tomatoes would indicate? Definitely not. Is it worth seeing? I’d say so. Is it worth an IMAX admission price? I would probably say not. It’s a fun action movie that I think wouldn’t have survived the summer with movies like Edge of Tomorrow and Guardians of the Galaxy, so it makes sense that The Equalizer was pushed out early fall, after summer blockbuster season, but before Oscar bait season. It’s probably the last fun action movie we’ll have this year.

Score: 3/4

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