Movie Review: THE EQUALIZER – Taxi Driver-lite. Washington’s presence elevates a too-familiar storyline.

Equalizer

Denzel shoots … it’s 1-1!!

Searching for a movie to watch, Wifey picked The Equalizer last night, a movie I was mostly reluctant to watch, having seen it unfavourably compared to the similar John Wick, a movie I didn’t much care for.

Being as the movie starts deathly slow, I started to see why people were saying John Wick was better … but then the movie grew on me, and I ended up liking it better. Could have been my expectations were low enough for that, but I don’t think so. I felt John Wick was cartoony in places – I think I actually called it comic-booky in my review, or something like that. The Equalizer never felt like that at all, likely due to two things: Antoine Fuqua, and Denzel Washington. Fuqua is a good director. He’s miles ahead of Chad Stahelski (John Wick’s director), and Washington has a real presence about him, whereas, even though I like Reeves, he’s a visual lightweight.

The Equalizer suffers from a great many things, however. Two subplots that go nowhere (which is bad, considering one of them is the trigger for the plot); the by-now cliche of the Russian mob (already played out); a first act that crawl along with no urgency, and a real lack of character depth of the guy Washington is playing. It’s easy to write “mysterious man”, you simply check all the boxes: loner, can’t sleep, reads books, supremely calm. You look at Taxi Driver, and that’s the kind of good character writing I mean (and yeah, I get that Travis Bickle is a psychopath, but if you’ve seen what Washington does in this movie, and how he does it, there’s a psychology there just waiting to be explored).

In a way, this review is a bit like the one I gave Kingsman: The Secret Service a few weeks ago: it’s lacking a lot of things, but definitely enhanced by some elements. In this case, Fuqua, who knows his way around the camera and stages things extremely well, and Washington, he exudes a languid, but overwhelming presence within every one of his scenes in a way that’s very reminiscent of 70s Clint Eastwood. Without either of those guys, the movie would have been as mediocre as John Wick.

3.0/5.0

© Andrew Hope 2016

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