Review by C.J. Bunce
The Pelican Brief, Philadelphia, Crimson Tide, Fallen, The Manchurian Candidate, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Unstoppable, 2 Guns—movies big and small, and all feature the Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington. In each, like with Cruise, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Willis, and most recently, Wahlberg, the lead character is really Denzel as Denzel, but each new time round the actor is lurking around in a different environment. In each, he has a new name and a new job, but it’s Denzel—striving to fight his way to the end, to wrestle with anger or grief, or pain, or to just get by.
In the 2014 theatrical release The Equalizer, as retired ex-CIA operative Robert McCall, Denzel gets to be the guy usually played by Cruise, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, or Willis, or even Chuck Norris or Charles Bronson. He gets to be the Dark Knight, or name any other superhero. He’s not only the good guy, but the good guy with the means.
Have you ever considered taking responsibility for everyone around you–everyone you regularly encounter each day? Maybe for you that’s the shop owner, the barista at your coffee shop, the guy who cleans your office, your family, friends, co-workers? Have you ever considered what it would take for you to stop what you’re doing and assume responsibility for everyone around you? Everyone’s problems, every failing, every pain—it’s all on you. If you see it, you own it. Like the character and TV series the movie is based on, Robert McCall takes charge with that message repeated on each episode of the TV series, and parroted in the film: If someone has a problem, if the odds are stacked against them, if they have nowhere else to turn, McCall will help. He is the Equalizer.
Denzel’s acting work in The Equalizer is great, as you’d expect. It’s among his best. And the character itself is great. Those two elements are enough to get anyone to watch The Equalizer and enjoy the ride. Even the several payoffs in the film are worth cheering for. But the film still has its problems. Unfortunately, as exciting and intense as it is, the movie itself doesn’t live up to its potential.