Denzel Washington and the character of Robert McCall are a match made in heaven. The Equalizer is, in fact, who he becomes over the course of Antoine Fuqua’s tense, powerful and thrilling film. It is the audience’s utter joy and a gift to witness Washington take McCall on a journey of self discovery that is richly painted and electrifyingly executed.
Fuqua’s film is truly an origins story and it only shares the name of our hero and his ability to “Equalize” a situation with the TV show from the '80s. That is really it, and thankfully so.
As we meet Washington, he is a widower working in a Boston Home Depot-type store. McCall does his job and heads home where he lives quietly, and alone. He can’t sleep and finds himself every night with one of the great literary classics ready to read as he heads to his favorite diner.
He meets a Russian teenage girl named Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), who is clearly a young soul who was caught in the seedy world of sex slavery. McCall wants to help, but does what he can in verbal support.
As teased in The Equalizer trailer, when one of the mobsters puts Teri in the hospital, Washington swings into action on a mission of justice meets vengeance.
What’s so fantastic about The Equalizer is that Washington’s journey from average Joe to man who culls his obvious special ops training to help others, is evenly drawn out over the film. He doesn’t just go in guns a-blazing seeking retribution. Oh no, it simmers like a good sauce until situations occur that get that heat pumping well into the red as it explodes into a menagerie of man on a mission action excellence.
That catalyst, it must be pointed out, is through the performance of Moretz. We see a light in her eyes that McCall sees and when someone so thoughtlessly tries to squelch it, it is easy to see why a quiet man would revert back to being not so quiet in his ways.
Whereas in films such as Taken where Liam Neeson lets you know through that iconic line that he has a special set of skills, Washington and Fuqua show you without verbage. The director films his action sequences with the most expert of panache. It plays out two ways.
We see what McCall sees and how each item in a room could be used as a weapon. And then there’s the other way. Fuqua cuts together the scene so that we don’t really know what happened until after it’s over. We can’t decide which is more thrilling. They both work, and they both leave the viewer with jaw dropped and pulse quickened.
That’s also another thing that is something truly special about Washington’s performance. As we feel our heart rate go faster simply watching him, McCall's clearly is growing calmer. And that says something for the actor who has given us so much over his Oscar-winning career. To give such a simultaneously nuanced and explosive performance in the span of one movie is truly a study in being a movie star at the highest levels.
The film could easily become a series for Fuqua and Washington. After the mastery they achieved with Training Day and now The Equalizer, we eagerly await the director and actor to meet again on a Boston landscape.
Our The Equalizer review can proudly state that the film is the first must-see action film of fall and if you appreciate the work of Washington, it is a complete and utter don’t-miss.
Watch Training Day online to witness the magic of Washington-Fuqua right now!