The Equalizer

Year: 2014
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Producer: Todd Black/Jason Blumenthal/Denzel Washington
Writer: Richard Wenk
Cast: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo

I can't remember the first time I realised I was getting tired of Johnny Depp because of the constant and interchangeable roll call of odd-balls he played for Tim Burton, but if I'm ever complaining that Denzel Washington does the same role over and over, this is going to be the point I can trace it back to.

By now, Washington can play this character with his eyes closed – and here, he more or less does. Playing basically the same role he did in Man On Fire, Washington is a former soldier/CIA agent/selected iteration of a dangerous trained killer (in this case the second one) who's drawn back into the world he vowed to leave behind with deadly consequences. See, I could have written the poster.

Now a clerk in a hardware outlet, McCall (Washington) is a borderline obsessive compulsive who eats late in a diner every night, reading his way through a hundred books on his dead wife's list of favourites and quietly befriending young hooker Teri (Moretz). When he witnesses her rough treatment at the hands of her Russian mobster handler/employers, he goes to them to offer to buy her freedom.

When the goons in the top floor office of the nightclub (all the thriller tropes are there) laugh at and insult him, the true McCall finally comes to the surface, using stylised camerawork to depict his hypersensitive environmental awareness and ability to plan the perfect attack.

When he springs into action and leaves the room full of corpses, he hopes that's all there is to it. But if he'd ever watched a movie, McCall would know he has to now fight his way through an ever-more dangerous hierarchy of killers right up to the fearsome boss man, video game style.

The boss man in this case is Marton Csokas as an ice-cool Mafia overlord full of simmering brutality and violence, and while it's an okay characterisation, we've seen it as often as we have the killer-turned-good-guy-loner-who-wants-out–of-the-life.

There are some cool action set pieces but none of it's anything you haven't seen before. It's probably time for Washington to do something like Philadelphia or American Gangster to remind us what he can do before he just seems lazy.

But here's something worth keeping in mind next time the discussion comes up about how we don't have any iconic action movie heroes like we did in the Stallones and Schwarzeneggers of the world back in the 80's. Liam Neeson's name is usually bandied about as the only possible contender, but Washington's been able to do this sort of thing since Crimson Tide.

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