Who doesn’t like a good film filled with brutal violence? Well, my mother, for one. And because of that, I grew up without any films like this in my life. It wasn’t until college that I had seen movies that contained vicious killing scenes, and even though I’ve been watching them for several years now, many of these scenes can still make my stomach churn. I’d be lying, though, if I said that I didn’t like that feeling on occasion. I like when movies can make me uncomfortable and put me on the edge of my seat. I definitely experienced this while I was watching The Equalizer, a new brutal offering from Antoine Fuqua.
The Equalizer stars Denzel Washington as Robert McCall, a former Special Forces operative who now works at a home improvement store. McCall has tried to leave his violent past behind him, but when a young prostitute named Teri, played by Chloë Grace Moretz, gets beat up by her superiors, Robert decides to put his old skills back to work. The Russian mob that runs the prostitution ring doesn’t like the trouble that’s being stirred up for them, and their own skilled assailant named Teddy, played by Marton Csokas, is sent in to investigate the situation. The remainder of the film involves the two taking out anyone in their way until they find each other, giving us a good taste of brutality all along the way.
I have to admit that I have never seen any of Fuqua’s other films, but I can say confidently that he did a great job with the direction in The Equalizer. The camerawork and editing for the action scenes were superb, giving the audience a good feel for what was happening onscreen. I was fully immersed in the film during these scenes, and I appreciated the great effort that went into them. Even when I felt uncomfortable, I could appreciate Fuqua’s ability to make me feel that way.
I was also impressed with the acting in this movie. Washington is excellent as McCall, but that is no surprise, given his track record. What was nice to see in this film is that Chloë Grace Moretz is shaping up to be much more than Hit Girl. Although she doesn’t have a huge amount of screen time in The Equalizer, the scenes that she does appear in are very believable, and I was sold on her performance. Csokas also makes for a great villain, including several scenes where I genuinely hated him. The cast was definitely one of the strongest points of the film, and they used the script to the best of their abilities.
The plot of The Equalizer seemed to be a bit lacking, which was too bad since most of the movie had pretty sharp dialogue. McCall’s original motivation to go after the Russian mob is to exact vengeance for what they had done to Teri, but I honestly forgot about her halfway into the film. A film that did this a bit better, in my opinion, was Taken, in which we are constantly reminded of Mills’ determination to save his daughter. In this film, McCall’s drive to get revenge is put aside in favor of the brutal violence on display in the movie. Moretz’ lack of screen time didn’t help this problem, either; despite her performance, the character of Teri came off as a helpless damsel. There were also several scenes which could have either been shortened or omitted from the movie because of their irrelevance to the plot, which to me is a real crime for any film over 2 hours. This movie succeeds much more in its direction than its story, which seems to be a common theme among modern action films.
I also have to say that some of the violence in The Equalizer was a bit gratuitous. I understand that this is what a lot of people go to these movies for, but there were some scenes that I just couldn’t get behind. The brutal ways in which McCall kills some of the Russians make him seem more like a sadist than a hero, especially when there would be less painful ways to get the job done. Some of these scenes also just seemed a bit unbelievable, especially with some of the dimwittedness of McCall’s victims.
All in all, I enjoyed The Equalizer. It wasn’t an amazing movie, but I’m sure that fans of other Fuqua films will enjoy it (a statement I say tentatively, given my inexperience with his other movies). It will make you squirm in your seat and scream over what you are seeing. Just be warned that it will also make you wonder why you are seeing these scenes in the first place.