In The Equalizer, Denzel Washington plays McCall, a man who believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when McCall meets Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can't stand idly by, he has to help her. Armed with hidden skills that allow him to serve vengeance against anyone who would brutalize the helpless, McCall comes out of his self-imposed retirement and finds his desire for justice reawakened. If someone has a problem, if the odds are stacked against them, if they have nowhere else to turn, McCall will help. He is THE EQUALIZER.
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 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 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.
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.