Review: The Equalizer doesn't pack a punch

BY NAT ALDER | OCTOBER 02, 2014 5:00 AM

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In the pantheon of great Denzel Washington films, The Equalizer can sit far outside of that camp, squarely between Out of Sight and Ricochet. Haven’t heard of those? No, me, neither. The Equalizer, while boasting an extremely likable and bankable star in Washington, is not a great Denzel flick. It is not a great flick period.

While the film’s lead is as charming and more violent than ever, the picture he inhabits is an unmitigated bore. The film fails to inspire anyone with it’s-been-done-before story structure, piss-poor editing, and trite villain tropes. Nothing about this movie screams “original,” besides its seeming aspiration to frustrate its audience.

Robert McCall lives a nice, quiet life. He proves to be the cool old guy with a lot of time and wisdom to spare — at least to his coworkers at his (totally not Home Depot) hardware store — and the man tends to lie low. Every night, he goes to a diner where he reads The Old Man and the Sea and occasionally confabulates with an underage prostitute (Chloe Grace Moretz, who, somehow, gives not only the best performance of her career but gives a better performance than any other actor in this film).

He gives this young woman distant and vague life advice, walks her to a gas station every so often. He takes something of a platonic liking to this character, and her to him, if only because he feels he can assist her in doing better things, such as not being a prostitute.

On one cold Bostonian night, his young pal fille de joie gets savagely and uncomfortably beaten by her Russian pimp. McCall, enabling his inner Chuck Norris (seriously, the things this guy does with power tools) unleashes an assault of ugly, violent payback.

What this film lacks is an inherent reason to exist beyond presenting audience members excessive bloodshed. The violence occurs with zero emotional consequence or reasoning, and as a result, feels lifeless at its inner core. A near credit shot of Washington standing on a beach seems to imply that something was there, but it comes across as jarring and undeserved.

Likewise, the film’s pacing seems incredibly off, and the best thing one can say about the editing is that the sound design is truly impressive. We hear every bone break, tooth shatter, and blood geyser with astonishing clarity and volume. Alas, the characters are never interesting, the revelation of McCall’s backstory isn’t surprising, though many of the actors seem more than capable with their tedious roles.

All in all, The Equalizer serves no purpose other than being excessively violent, and I realize that there are a lot of people who like the sound of that prospect, but trust me, this movie is more long and boring than you could possibly expect. The film’s action is edited with such chaotic disregard that your brain literally does not have enough time to process the violence that is occurring. Hence the amazing sound design.

Ultimately, save your hard-earned cash and make a better investment: there are VHS copies of Ricochet available on eBay right now.

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