For more than two hours, this intelligent, taut, low-key thriller kept us entertained and engaged. It far exceeds expectation, and delivers a typically thoughtful and powerful performance from Denzel Washington. It also perfectly sets up a sequel or TV series, but it’s now hard to imagine someone other than Denzel taking centrestage in the role of the quiet man who rights wrongs.
Like most folk, we came to this re-make with all the baggage of the old, much-loved Edward Woodward TV series. Comparisons are almost pointless, the two are so far apart. Instead of judging the new film by the old standards, we just got wrapped up in its narrative, captivated by the central character who appears to be trudging through a mundane life, obsessive-compulsively arranging his cutlery, helping others where he can. He seems like a nice guy: witty, friendly, good ol’ Bob. The kinda guy who helps his workmates towards promotion, rescues cats from trees, holds doors for old ladies.
The suspense building towards the trigger-point, when Bob is finally galvanised into glorious action, is delicious. There’s nothing especially original about the set-up – he observes a young working girl being abused by customers and her pimp. As her plight worsens so his concern increases until it brings him to a pivot-point which threatens the whole equilibrium of the life he’s been trying to build. He faces a massive moral dilemma: does he intervene at significant personal cost? Or walk away?
Happily for us… it all kicks off in magnificent style with some beautifully choreographed and photographed fight sequences. They’re a bit reminiscent of the Robert Downey Jnr Sherlock fights; full of calculation and observation, with the action itself delivered in stylised slo-mo so we don’t miss any of the clever bits.
The Equalizer plays to the crowd in many respects and in many ways is a totally traditional thriller. There’s a damsel in distress, a fat bloke providing light relief, an extremely interesting villain in the shape of a menacing Russian enforcer (Russia being enemy du jour once again for American film-makers…), and a compelling central character who is as competent as Jack Reacher at felling bad guys but who also comes with a complicated moral core and a few interesting weak spots which make him somewhat less than invulnerable.
The final showdown is a total treat, set in a DIY warehouse with Bob using all manner of gadgets in inventive ways to rescue hostages from Russian hoods. Mind you, it does also stretch credibility somewhat in asking us to believe that he’s capable of dodging so many bullets…
Don’t watch this expecting full-on action-adventure from the get-go. It takes quite a while to hit its stride and there’s a lot of dialogue and emotional manipulation in the opening hour. Also, don’t come expecting to see anything quite like the old Equalizer: this is an entirely different interpretation of a similar theme. We went expecting to be disappointed: we came away delighted.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
The Equalizer is available to download, rent or buy in high-definition, DVD and standard formats.