The Equalizer

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The Equalizer

There are two kinds of action movies in the world. In one, our hero finds himself in a violent situation well out of his league, and the tension comes from his struggles to deal with the increasing carnage despite his clear inability to handle things. In the other, the bad guys make the mistake of stumbling across the ultimate killing machine, and the fun comes from seeing a variety of scumbags meet a ghastly fate at the hands of death incarnate.
As The Equalizer starts off, you might think that having our hero, Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) working at a Boston hardware depot signals that we’re about to see the first kind of film. And for a while, as McCall helps a fellow employee with his attempts to lose weight for a security guard job and hangs out at a local diner late at night quietly reading to himself, it seems like we’re being set up for a film about a man who gets in trouble over his head – especially once he befriends Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), an underage hooker (a job the film is careful never to make clear, even though being hustled into a limo with a fat guy in back kind of makes it obvious) who tends to get slapped around by her evil Russian pimp.
Is McCall the kind of wuss who’ll go visit the pimp and offer to buy Teri out of her contract? Yep. Is he then the kind of guy who’ll kill five men in less than thirty seconds? Sure looks like it. And even though it turns out that he’s now pissed off the sinister Russian oligarch who controls all crime on the Eastern Seaboard – a man who sends the extremely deadly Teddy (New Zealand’s own Marton Csokas) to take care of the problem by beating up rival mobsters and murdering hookers – it’s now crystal clear that nothing short of dropping an atomic bomb on McCall is going to stop him from beating up crooked cops, taking a hammer to armed robbers, and just generally being an unstoppable spirit of vengeance. So basically, if you like this kind of thing all your Christmases have come at once. They’re very red Christmases at that, because this excellent B-movie is based entirely around killing as many scumbags in as many inventive ways as possible – by the big climax this has basically become a slasher film with an impassive Washington snuffing out bearded contract killers using all manner of garden implements.
At over two hours, director Antoine Fuqua (who worked with Washington on Training Day) keeps the pace snappy, repeatedly cutting expected sequences short to both keep the plot moving and to underline how skilfully lethal McCall is. As a high-end exploitation film this is a real standout, delivering plenty of thrills (and a lot of very nasty violence) without pointless diversions like character or backstory. If you like this kind of thing, you’ll really like this kind of thing.