Washington Shines, Plot Does Not in ‘The Equalizer’

Photo Courtesy of Ole Haug, Flickr Creative Commons

Most people will turn the other cheek and avoid the opportunity to be a hero. That’s because most people do not have the skills to fight back. Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is not one of these people. Working with director Antoine Fuqua for the second time, Washington stars in the big screen adaption of the 1980s television show “The Equalizer.”

Washington plays McCall, a former military man who comes across as slightly obsessive-compulsive as he proves old habits die hard, meticulously scheduling his days to the point of using a stopwatch to time his morning routine. McCall is a quiet, respectful character, who is well-liked at his job in a local hardware superstore.

His nights are spent bringing his own tea bag to a local mom and pop diner where he solemnly reads classic novels and engages in an innocent relationship with a very young Russian mafia-controlled prostitute.

The forlorn Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz) becomes somewhat of a daughter figure to McCall, who reluctantly takes it upon himself to acquire justice after she is severely beaten and hospitalized by her Russian overlord.

Witnessing this young woman’s struggle invokes McCall’s inner vigilante as he begins his violent quest to take down the Boston syndicate of the Russian mafia, several dirty cops and even a proletarian stickup artist.

Washington, being the Academy Award-winning actor that he is, provides a cool, effortless performance as he does his best impersonation of Batman, minus the stylish costume and the cape. His reputation and charisma carries the lack of depth in the script and the obvious holes in the film's plot.

Marton Csokas unexpectedly commands attention with his portrayal of unemotional, insensitive “fixer” Teddy. The consigliore to Russian-based boss Vladimir Pushkin, Teddy is unimpressed with McCall and remains one step ahead at all times. The on-screen chemistry between Csorkas and Washington is palpable and when both men are featured together, the scenes are the most intense, dramatic and memorable of the entire film.

The movie's violence escalates at an extreme rate and sadly becomes far-fetched in the process. Vague, sometimes non-existent explanations of McCall’s techniques are given, as he ferociously litters the streets of Boston with lifeless bodies.

The climax becomes reminiscent of the film “Home Alone” as McCall is lured back to his job at the hardware store. Washington turns into a lethal version of Macaulay Culkin, using his knowledge of the surroundings and supplies as he gruesomely and at times comically obliterates the Russian mobsters sent for his head.

“The Equalizer” is an average action film with polished acting and slick cinematography. The talented duo of Washington and Fuqua that gave us the classic film “Training Day” could not create the same magic the second time around.