The Equalizer

The Equalizer [2014] stars Denzel Washington on the lowest of simmers as he dispenses justice on scales small and large, mostly large, as the mysteriously sympathetic ex-agent Robert McCall. During the course of his structured and disciplined day, he crosses paths with Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young woman brutalized by the local faction of the Russian mob. The movie’s plot is not innovative enough to feature Russian mobsters—mainly the sadistic enforcer Teddy (Marton Csokas)—without making them the primary antagonists, but that’s beside the point.

All buildup, all payoff. Reuniting with his Training Day star is director Antoine Fuqua, who lets no scene go to waste as he sets protagonist McCall on a calm, calculated rampage against organized crime and others. He lets no dialogue go to waste either, and Richard Wenk’s polished, unpretentious screenplay certainly deserves such treatment. No spiraling, multi-layered storytelling here: just a man, everything about who he is, and nothing about who he was.

Real people! Moretz plays Teri with gut-wrenching inner pain; Csokas relishes his slimy lines with cold glee; you can almost smell David Harbour’s punk rogue cop as he digs his own grave. And Washington himself betrays no fear as a man too disgusted by his opponents to feel disgusted by his treatment of them.

High-octane character study. Robert McCall is a fascinating character, and even during the film’s violent action, the viewer is looking at his indescribable face. Props to veteran composer Harry Gregson-Williams for capturing him with his subtle, haunting score: whether McCall is lancing a gangster’s neck with a power drill, or helping a coworker get a job as a security guard, it’s the same low-burning, consistent hum: the desire to reward good and punish evil that pushes his life forward day by day.


The Equalizer fails to live up to its name by standing
a good head-and-shoulders above typical action fare.