‘I’ ON CULTURE
I enjoyed The Equalizer, a good revenge vigilante-style film. Denzel Washington, the movie’s star, has always been a favorite actor of mine, and unlike almost all other male stars, he has never been in one of the usual franchise action films. That will probably change once box-office receipts are in. The theater was packed when I saw it early on a Friday afternoon.
The film, adapted from an ’80s television series, focuses on Robert “Bob” McCall (Washington), an extraordinarily nice guy who manages a Home Depot-style store. He is charming to everyone, helpful to his employees, particularly an obese kid, Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis), who wants to be a security guard and has to lose weight. He lives alone in an almost monk-like existence, but is sweet and helpful to everyone. He eats every night at the same place, where he reads for a while. One of the regular customers is an underage Russian hooker named Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), and she asks him about the books he’s always reading.
Teri gets beaten up badly by her pimp, and suddenly, everything changes. The sweet guy everyone likes suddenly goes all “Charles Bronson.” He walks into the pimp’s office, gets laughed at by the guy and his thugs, and then, setting his watch to time his actions, kills them all in 19 seconds. Did I mention that this is a really violent movie?
It turns out that the pimp was part of the Russian Mafia, so the man who runs it from Russia, named Pushkin (why do moviemakers use the name of Russia’s greatest poet so often in picking the names of their bad guys?), sends his top enforcer in. Teddy (Marton Tsokas) comes across at first as a quiet interrogator but quickly reveals himself to be a total psychopath. He kills anyone in his path and, in one of the best scenes in the movie, tells McCall that he looks on him as nothing more than lint.
Somehow, McCall is able to recover from that stinging statement and works at building up a long list of victims. From the beginning, Teddy realizes that McCall is not all he seems to be, but much of the time does not bother to adjust to that fact. He is the man with the really big hammer, and so what he does is push in nails. As a result, there are several particularly violent scenes, each one worthy of being the climax before the end.
The really big action scene takes place at the building supplies store, where McCall uses all the fun tools and supplies to kill a whole lot of bad guys who come in with automatic weapons. Despite an overwhelming Russian force, he smoothly releases many hostages and then kills all the bad guys with a bit of assistance from the overweight security guard.
This is a sort of a poor man’s Americanized James Bond. McCall stays calm, cool and rather nice all the way through, even while he’s using a small sledgehammer to break someone or setting a trap to hang a thug with barbed wire. Instead of Bond’s high-tech tools, he uses building supplies. And, like Bond, while getting scratched up a bit (after all, when 10 nasties are shooting automatic weapons and are twice your size, you will be bothered a little), it’s not enough to ever count.
That, of course, is one problem with the film. Washington is so sweet, so nice, you wonder why there is no transition between his demeanor and his killing. He could be as nuts as the Russian. Actually, the Russian is somewhat more interesting as a nut.
The real problem is that there are gigantic plot holes. Why did the Russian never think of simply using a sniper? Why didn’t McCall ever think about the possibility of hostage taking? Why, when he had the chance, did he not even pick up any of the guns? Why did he care so much about a hooker he just saw when he had dinner? How come all the cops are corrupt? Those are the mysteries of the Hollywood universe.
But the movie was fun if you have no trouble with enough violence to almost make it a cartoon. The violence was also not underplayed; people bled out and were made dead very fast. But the whole thing moved quickly and was certainly enjoyed, by me and the rest of the audience.