- Street Date:
- December 30th, 2014
- Reviewed by:
- Shannon T. Nutt
- Review Date: 1
- December 24th, 2014
- Movie Release Year:
- 132 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Release Country
- United States
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Only someone as talented as Denzel Washington could take a script as by-the-numbers as 'The Equalizer' and turn it into an interesting movie. While there's still much about the film I don't like (some of it detailed in the paragraphs that follow), there's enough here to make it worth a look and almost all of that is provided by one of the best actors working in Hollywood today.
Of course, most of you already know that the movie is loosely based on the original TV series of the same name from the late 1980s, which starred British actor Edward Woodward as an ex-CIA (or other top secret agency, as the series never specified) agent who spends his days 'fixing' the problems of people in need – which usually involved taking care of one criminal element or another. This version of 'The Equalizer' keeps the character's name and the background (but obviously not the nationality), but pretty much dispenses with everything else…at least as far as this entry is concerned (the film is designed to launch a franchise, but whether Denzel will pull the trigger on a sequel – pardon the pun – remains to be seen).
As played by Washington, McCall is a man with a shadowy past, who spends his days working at the local Home Mart (think Home Depot) and his evenings sitting in a local café alone reading a book. McCall has OCD tendencies, as we see him always checking his watch, timing how long it takes him to do things like brushing his teeth or doing the dishes, and taking a tea bag from home with him to the café every day to place in a mug of hot water provided by the owner.
Every night at the café, Robert also converses with young Alina (Chloë Grace Moretz), who is a child prostitute under the employment of a group of Russian mobsters. Despite his seemingly moral way of living, Robert doesn't interfere in Alina's life until the day he notices that she's shown up at the café with a nasty bruise on her face. Even then, when he confronts the mobsters, he doesn't stop them from throwing Alina in the back of their car and driving off with her. However, when Alina winds up in the hospital after a particularly brutal beating, McCall finally takes action…but it's only to offer the mobsters money to buy Alina's freedom from prostitution. When the mobsters refuse, Robert finally springs into action, eliminating them all in a way that is sure to make Liam Neeson jealous.
McCall's elimination of the Russians, however, just leads to more serious issues as an even more imposing figure in their organization, Teddy (Marton Csokas), arrives in the United States to find out who killed the men and eliminate him. The rest of the film is a serious of showdowns (both physical and verbal) between Teddy and/or those working for him.
Those looking for lots of action will find it here, but not in the movie's first half hour or so, which is actually my favorite part of the film. The first act of 'The Equalizer' spends a lot of time introducing McCall's character and building up the relationship between McCall and Alina, which are among the best scenes in the movie. However, once Alina finds herself hospitalized, McCall pays her one visit and we never see her character again until the very end of the film. Which is really odd, as she's the reason McCall is doing everything that follows. Wouldn't he go check on her all the time? Wouldn't he be there helping nurse her back to health? Were those scenes deleted? Who knows, but the absence of the character for two-thirds of the movie really hurts it, in my opinion.
Another issue I have with 'The Equalizer' is in the way it portrays its violence, which is pretty graphic, even for an R-rated flick. The movie makes a point that Robert doesn't kill with guns, but instead using objects that are around him or in his immediate area. That makes the action scenes more interesting, but it also results in a number of gruesome shots that include, but aren't limited to, a corkscrew through someone's jaw and a blade through the side of someone's head. These really seem like the kind of things you'd see a killer do in a slasher flick, as opposed to a 'hero' doing them, and I frankly was turned off by much of the bloodletting we see here.
For all I didn't like, however, I'm still recommending 'The Equalizer' because Denzel gives such a great performance in it. Unlike many of his Hollywood counterparts, Washington seems to understand the importance of 'stillness' in a character, and that you can learn as much from a look or other body language as you can from a character talking out loud. As noted above, we don't learn a whole lot about who McCall really is in 'The Equalizer', but I think that's one of the reasons the character is so interesting to watch. It's those quiet moments, and not the big action scenes, that sets this movie apart from others in its genre.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Equalizer' evens things out on Blu-ray in an eco-friendly keepcase from Sony that doesn't have holes in it the way Elite keepcases do, but is thinned out universally, so it basically has the same weight/sturdiness as those other environmentally conscious cases. The 50GB dual-layer disc is front-loaded with an ad for Ultraviolet, followed by trailers for Fury, No Good Deed, 'Foxcatcher', When the Game Stands Tall, 'Predestination', and 'Powers' – a new series available exclusively on the Playstation Network (for now). The main menu consists of a still image (the same one of Denzel that graces the box cover), with menu selections running along the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is Region A locked.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
'The Equalizer' was shot digitally on Arri Alexa cameras, and arrives on Blu-ray with a strong, detailed, and colorful transfer from Sony. A big chunk of the movie takes place at night and/or in dimly lit environments, and the black levels here are outstanding. There will be no issue with viewers being able to delineate shadows, as the black levels are deep and inky. Detail and clarity is also wonderful throughout, including the actors themselves, as every crease and wrinkle can be made out on the performers' faces.
I did not see 'The Equalizer' in theaters, but if there's one mild problem with the transfer, it's that the colors are a little too rich and oversaturated at times, particularly when it comes to yellows and whites. Frequent lens flaring in the image also sometimes distracts from one's enjoyment, but this is obviously an issue to take up with the movie's cinematographer and no fault of the actual transfer here. In terms of any defects, like aliasing or banding, I didn't detect any issues.
Overall, this is a great looking movie, and just short of a reference-quality transfer. Fans of the film will be quite pleased with what they get here in terms of image.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The primary track here is an English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio one that should give your home theater a great workout. While dialogue is primarily up front, the audio makes use of the rears for both an immersive feel, as well as some fun directionality – primarily with things like cars, subway cars, and bullets. Separation and distinctiveness of sounds throughout are top-notch. There are a few explosions in the movie as well, and the track has some nice LFE moments.
However, if there's one issue I have with this otherwise well-done track, it's the same issue I have with a lot of Sony Blu-ray tracks: the mix tends to emphasize the effects (i.e., explosions, fighting, etc.) at the expense of the dialogue. Too often, big action sequences are way too loud, while quieter moments are way too soft. This seems to be par for the course with most action movie releases from this studio, and it's something I wish they'd address. Most viewers don't seem to ever complain about this, though, so I realize I'm a minority when it comes to this. I just find it annoying to have to play with your remote control all during the movie, so the big action sequences don't wake the neighbors, but so you can still hear the dialogue during the non-action scenes.
In addition to the DTS-HD lossless audio, 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks are available in both French and Spanish. There's also an English Descriptive Audio track in English 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French, and Spanish.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
- Children of the Night (HD, 5 ½ min.) – A featurette focusing on Chloë Grace Moretz and her character, with comments from the crew and Ms. Moretz. Also promoted here is the national hotline number for 'Children of the Night', the organization devoted to rescuing children trapped in childhood prostitution.
- Home Mart: Taking Care of Business One Bolt at a Time (HD, 2 min. ) – A faux humorous commercial for the fictional business in the movie where Robert McCall works, which is sort of a cross between Home Depot and Lowe's. The 'commercial' uses footage from the big climax of the movie, so be sure not to watch it until you've seen the film.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
- Vengeance Mode with Denzel Washington & Antoine Fuqua (HD, 23 min.) – When I read about this on the box cover, it sounded like one of those picture-in-picture bonus features that runs during the movie. However, it's not quite that. Instead, while watching the movie, there are break-aways to a series of short clips that have the star and the director (in what looks to be a screening room) chatting about the scene you're about to watch. These take place before the scene in question, which is kind of odd, since the comments ruin the scene, but since most will be watching this after they've seen the movie for the first time, so I guess it doesn't really matter. Fortunately, there are chapter stops on the disc that will take viewers right to the beginning of each one of these segments, so there's no need to have to sit through the complete film a second time to enjoy all of these clips. They're broken into segments, starting with an introduction, then followed by interview clips covering 'Robert McCall'; 'Chloë Grace Moretz as Alina'; 'The Russian Restaurant'; 'The Alley'; 'The Home Mart Robbery'; 'The Diner'; 'Marton Csokas as Teddy'; and 'The Home Mart Final Battle'.
- Inside 'The Equalizer' (HD, 8 min.) – A featurette covering how the movie came to be, including comments from Screenwriter Richard Wenk, Producer Jason Blumenthal, Producer Todd Black, Director Antoine Fuqua, and Star Denzel Washington. Among other things, we learn the movie was always planned to be part of a franchise, which means a sequel is more likely than not.
- Denzel Washington: A Different Kind of Superhero (HD, 7 min.) – The cast and crew comment about how Denzel is one of the greatest actors of all time…hey, tell us something we don't already know! Denzel himself also talks about his character and what drew him to the part.
- Equalizer Vision: Antoine Fuqua (HD, 7 min.) – The cast and crew comment about the director, whom – naturally – was suggested by Denzel Washington, having worked with him before on Training Day.
- One Man Army: Training and Fighting (HD, 7 min.) – A look at how Denzel trained and rehearsed for his various action scenes in 'The Equalizer'. We learn here that it was Denzel's idea for the character to be more of a street fighter, being creative with his surroundings, as opposed to being adept at karate or kung fu, or a similar discipline. Also, for the record, this featurette confirms that Denzel used no stunt doubles in the movie…it's him in every scene.
- Photo Gallery – A slide show that allows viewers to navigate through smaller images of the photos along the bottom of the screen and then click on the ones they want to view the larger versions of…why don't all photo galleries use this design? There are 52 photos in all.
Although I did have some issues with the way the story played out and some of the graphic violence, there's no doubt that 'The Equalizer' is a solid piece of entertainment, almost exclusively due to the quality acting of star Denzel Washington. He adds depth to a story than might otherwise be just another run-of-the-mill action flick. For that reason, this one is recommended.
- 50GB Blu-ray/Digital Copy
- Region A
- 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
- French Dolby Digital 5.1
- Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
- English Descriptive Audio 5.1
- English, English SDH, French, Spanish
- Home Mart: Taking Care of Business One Bolt at a Time On the film's climactic Home Mart sequence.
- Children of the Night - Moretz discusses her character, Teri and the research she did to play the young, exploited girl.
Exclusive HD Content
- Vengeance Mode
- Inside The Equalizer - Exploring the creative process of re-imagining and bringing Robert McCall to life.
- Denzel Washington: A Different Kind of Superhero - A behind-the-scenes look at how Washington trained for his physically demanding role in this film.
- Equalizer Vision: Antoine Fuqua - A firsthand look at the movie-making process from the Director.
- One Man Army: Training and Fighting - A discussion with Washington, Csokas & stunt coordinator, Keith Woulard, on the process of building a one-man army.
- Photo Gallery
All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More
about our gear.
Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.