Denzel Washington doesn’t stretch much in “The Equalizer,” a new cinematic adaptation of the ’80s TV series.
The actioner finds the star back in tough-talking, butt-kicking mode — it’s essentially a reprise of his “Man on Fire” work. He’s not going to win a third Oscar here.
But sometimes the familiar can be welcome, especially when the practitioner is so good at what he does. And really, there are few actors more commanding than Washington when he’s taking out bad guys.
Reuniting with Antoine Fuqua, who directed him to an Academy Award in “Training Day,” Washington plays Robert McCall, whose quiet life as a hardware store employee is interrupted when some bad guys beat up a teenage prostitute (Chloë Grace Moretz) whom he has befriended as a fellow late-night customer at a 24-hour diner.
I know, I know. It sounds dumb. And it is pretty dumb, and pretty contrived, but Fuqua’s sleek approach and Washington’s extraordinary charisma sell the picture once McCall starts utilizing skills that he obtained, ahem, elsewhere to extract revenge on the Russian mob.
The filmmaker embraces the Denzel persona and structures every image to emphasize just how strong and powerful this character is. The film is “Taken”-like in its steadfast refusal to even consider the possibility that McCall wouldn’t get his way. There’s slow-motion, sped-up trick effects to stress McCall’s thought process, at least one macho walk toward the camera with an explosion in the background, intimidating low angles and all sorts of other genre staples centered on this fundamental idea.
The message is very simple: Don’t mess with this guy. Even Marton Csokas’ Teddy, McCall’s menacing chief antagonist, has no real chance of stemming the tide of vengeance.
Washington brings conviction and feeling to the part, intensely internalizing McCall’s anger and entertainingly intimidating the baddies that have the misfortune of crossing his path. He sells you on the character and the movie, even if you don’t believe a minute of it, and proves once again why he’s so perfect for the action genre.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua | Starring Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz