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The Equalizer (Denzel Washington) - Review

The Equalizer

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

IT’S a measure of just how commanding a screen presence that Denzel Washington is that his latest, The Equalizer, is a thriller as good as it is.

Inspired by the television series of the same name, which starred Edward Woodward and ran from 1985 to 1989, this is the type of film that could once have been led by Sylvester Stallone or – more recently – Jason Statham.

But thanks to Washington’s enigmatic performance and some slick and unflinching direction from Antoine Fuqua (reuniting for the first time since their Oscar-winning exploits on Training Day), this manages to emerge from an average scenario into a true guilty pleasure. A hard-as-nails action flick that does what it does efficiently and expertly.

Hence, Washington plays Robert McCall, a former black ops commando who has faked his death to live a quiet life in Boston (as a DIY store attendant), but who decides to come out of ‘retirement’ to rescue a young girl, Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), who is being controlled and abused by the Russian Mob.

Affording her protection, McCall is soon targeted by one of the Mob’s most efficient killers (Marton Csokas), forcing him to rely on his old skills and tap into the dark past he was seeing to lay to rest.

Admittedly, Washington has walked this kind of territory before, most notably in the superior Man On Fire, and while this is the kind of role the actor can do in his sleep, he still brings a touch of class to proceedings.

His McCall is an engaging presence to be around: charismatic when he needs to be, as well as kind and compassionate, but capable of brutality and merciless in the extreme. Once unleashed, he is a ferocious killing machine… albeit one who is clearly wrestling with a conscience.

It’s to the film’s credit, too, that the audience isn’t spoon-fed McCall’s back story. Yes, we’re drip-fed enough to guess but there’s much more to potentially discover about this man and, thanks to Washington’s skillful handling of the material, every moment he is on-screen is hypnotic.

Grace Moretz is also good too, particularly in her scenes with Washington (which lend the film most of its heart), while Csokas makes a good villain and also excels in the leading man’s presence.

Fuqua, as he has shown with films like Training Day and Olympus Has Fallen, is good at delivering a muscular action scene and here pulls no punches, imbuing the film with a gritty style that is suitably adult (and borderline 18) as well as, just occasionally, self-aware enough to realise some of its own absurdities (such as Washington walking in slow motion away from an exploding boat).

And while some of the violence may be a little too unsavoury for some tastes and a few of the later scenes a little too audience-friendly and pat, The Equalizer is the type of experience that has enough in its armoury to overcome such faults.

It is an efficient crowd-pleaser that provides Washington with enough goods to create yet another memorable character to add to a CV littered with colourful creations. If, as suggested, this kick-starts a franchise, then it would be a welcome one.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 132mins
UK Release Date: September 24, 2014