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Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Equalizer



"You gotta be who you are in this world."

In The Equalizer, that nice, helpful man who works at Home Depot is secretly the most dangerous person in Boston. It's a good thing that if you find yourself in trouble, he's on your side. Reunited with Antoine Fuqua, who directed him to a Best Actor Oscar for his villainous turn in Training Day, Denzel Washington assumes full hero mode as Bob McCall, the Equalizer (no one calls him that.) Fancying himself as a knight in a world where knights no longer exist, Denzel plays McCall as a compassionate enigma who can't stand idly by when crime and injustice wantonly flashes a gun and extorts the innocent or smacks up a local teen prostitute. Denzel is a silent guardian, a watchful protector, a dark... er, Denzel must Equalize.

Details are sketchy and the movie isn't forthcoming, but McCall is some sort of deadly former CIA agent who escaped the agency by faking his death. He lives a solitary existence just north of Boston, working 40 hours a week at a Home Depot by day and spending his insomniac nights reading literature in his favorite corner table at his local diner. He's plagued by OCD and lives by his stopwatch, frowning to himself about not being as fast as he used to be. Most of all, Denzel has a powerful streak of do-goodery in him; he's compelled to help the helpless, be it training his overweight co-worker in physical fitness and proper diet or avenging the assault and battery of the local teen prostitute mentioned prior, played by Chloe Grace Moretz, who is owned by the Russian Mafia. 

Denzel forming a bond with a young white girl is territory previously trodden in Man on Fire, but unlike his gentle relationship with tween Dakota Fanning a decade ago, Denzel is more cautious and less emotionally invested in Moretz's fate. He maintains an odd distance towards her, even after he tries to buy her freedom and subsequently goes to war with the Russian Mafia. Denzel's conversations with Moretz center on the idea that a person should be free to be whomever he/she wishes to be. This is inelegantly articulated by Denzel citing "The Old Man and the Sea": "The old man's gotta be the old man, the fish has gotta be the fish." For Denzel, the person he wants to be is Batman, but without the costume, car, cave, butler, and unwillingness to kill. To his credit, Denzel almost never uses a gun; he'd rather creatively use every implement in Home Depot to brutally murder his enemies. Books and corkscrews kill just as well as bullets in the hands of Denzel.

Boston in the movies is plagued by crime, drugs, and corrupt cops; The Equalizer posits that all of that and prostitution is controlled by the Russian Mafia, which is amusing news to this lifelong resident. When Denzel annihilates Moretz's pimps in their own office, the crime lord of Moscow sends his top enforcer Martin Csokas to find the man responsible. Csokas carves a bloody path across Boston looking for Denzel, massacring rival Irish gangsters, his own prostitutes, and his own local police henchmen alike. No one is more surprised than Csokas to find Denzel escalating the brutality by killing even more people than he does. As fearsome as Csokas is, he realizes far too late he's no match for Denzel. It's only after Denzel has utilized the full murderous potential of Home Depot against him and his private army that Csokas understands just who he fucked with.

The Equalizer is an entertaining, odd duck. The movie is paced in a stately manner where it fools the audience into thinking it's an intimate character study of a curious man named Bob McCall. This patina of realism is then exploded in a stream of viscera and violence into the realm of stylized, pure revenge fantasy. Once Denzel sets his timer (goal is 16 seconds, actual time of murders 28 seconds) and unleashes his wrath on the Russian gangsters, The Equalizer only becomes less and less plausible until the final minutes where Denzel pays the crime lord of Moscow a visit in his own mansion, leaving no Russian gangster alive. To think, Denzel killed the entire Russian Mafia all because a pimp smacked up Hit-Girl. And because it was the right thing to do. Who are we to argue? It's Denzel's world; he Equalizes it.

One day, when I need him, I will definitely hit up Denzel's Craigslist: