The Equalizer (2014, Antoine Fuqua)
Denzel Washington plays a mysterious man who once executed black operations for the CIA, but is now working in a Home Mart hardware store and spending his nights reading books. A young woman (Chloë Grace Moretz) who’s under the control of the Russia Mafia forces him to return to his former way of life.
Denzel & Chloë have a few good scenes together early on, but she drops out of the movie after half an hour or so, only to return for a brief encounter in the movie’s dying moments. The rest of the time is filled with Washington’s ex-CIA operative disposing of criminal vermin. The criminal mastermind from Russia - called Pushkin, no less - keeps sending in new scum, until our man takes to plane to Moscow to settle things once and for all.
If you think the world needs one more vigilante movie, Denzel Washington is probably the best choice for the lead and Antoine Fuqua not a bad choice for the directional chair, but to me The Equalizer felt like a missed opportunity. It almost feels cartoonish, with Washington impersonating a larger-than-life, virtually indestructible character, but instead of tongue-in-cheek (which might have done the film a lot of good), the atmosphere is rather stern and most of the violence directed at Washington’s opponents is pretty nasty.
There’s also some of the sermonizing (bad people will be spared if they promise to do ‘the good thing’) that has become an increasingly important part of Denzel Washington’s movies in recent years. It’s obvious what Washington and Fuqua had in mind - the equalizer is a messianic savior of those who are without hope - but the idea needs a better movie to bloom.