We hate Russians again. I’m not sure when that happened but there it is. They’re becoming the go to bad guys for action movies and spy drama and it’s like the 80’s are back.
Hell Robert Redford is doing spy movies again.
But just this year we’ve had November Man (I think those bad guys were Russian…), John Wick (I know those bad guys were Russian) and also, The Equalizer.
My biggest issue with the Equalizer is that it’s a textbook case of a movie that isn’t sure what it wants to be. And at a two hour and forty minute run time it tries to be everything. It is in fact three movies in one so you can’t say you aren’t getting your money’s worth when you watch it. It’s a trilogy with one unifying element, and that element is Denzel Washington.
To be fair I remember very little of the original show. I remember sitting through the awesome title sequence with that slick synthesizer music (it was the 80’s, and maybe that explains the Russians) and that awesome shot of Edward Woodward standing by that badass car, and then not much else. Seriously though go watch that title sequence.
The rest of the show was typical eighties fare. Vaguely recognizable actors showed up with serious problems while unambiguous bad guys played by vaguely recognizable foreign actors did “bad things” and then Edward Woodward equalized the hell out of them. Somehow. And as far as I can tell the only thing the Equalizer movie has in common with the show is that the character is named Robert McCall.
The first 40 minutes of the movie are dedicated to setup. If you were pitching an equalizer TV series this would be your pilot. Also your series would not be picked up because literally nothing happens for 40 minutes.
Equalizer works in a Home Depot stand in called Home Mart. He has a friend who needs to lose weight so he can get a job as a security guard for Home Mart (way to dream big) and Equalizer helps him lose weight by pointing out that he shouldn’t put potato chips on his tuna sandwich, then makes him drag a tire around for a little while.
Also the Equalizer has insomnia and when he can’t sleep he goes to a diner where he displays OCD, drinks tea and talks to the Russian Hooker who shows up every night played by Chloe Grace Moretz.
This sequence seems to go on forever. Every time they cut back to his apartment then the diner then Home Mart I kept thinking to myself, “Did someone really turn in a script where nothing happens for the first 40 pages?” That is indeed what happened.
Then movie two starts and it is a montage of the Equalizer doing equalizer things. He walks the Russian hooker home late one night when Russian mobsters pull over and pick her up looking shady and you can see where this is going even if you aren’t paying attention. So when the Russian hooker doesn’t show up at the diner it’s time for something to get equalized. Turns out she’s in the hospital because she got beat up by her Russian bosses cause that’s what happens to Russian hookers, duh, so Equalizer goes to try to buy her from the Russian mobsters and they laugh at him and then he kills them all in a spectacularly violent sequence because he’s secretly a badass. Only it’s not really a secret cause you’re watching the Equalizer.
Then Home Mart gets robbed and a cashier has to give the crook her favorite ring so Equalizer hunts the guy down and brings the girl back her ring, but doesn’t tell anybody cause he’s cool. Then his wannabe security guard friend doesn’t show up for work so Equalizer goes to see him and finds out the guys mom’s owns a restaurant and they had a fire because she didn’t pay protection money to the two dirty cops who apparently run this side of town. Which is pretty enterprising for just two guys, I have to admit.
So he equalizes them by filming them admitting they’re bad guys in what had to be one of the easiest “Yeah we totally did it, wait are you filming this?” scenes ever. But then Denzel flashes that Denzel smile and you forgive the silliness cause Denzel is awesome.
So by now the Russians have realized that a bunch of their mobsters are dead, and the Russians don’t like this so they send Martin Csokas to deal with it. Then the Russian Mob does Russian mob things, scouring the city for the mysterious Equalizer, they play some cat and mouse with each other, and then the equalizer goes to see his old handler from the CIA, who is apparently wealthy enough to own a giant mansion where you can land a helicopter. Also she’s married to Bill Pullman for some reason.
The Equalizer wants her permission to kill the Russians because I guess his wife died and he promised her he wouldn’t kill people anymore, and they were all apparently good friends and I guess if his ex-CIA handler says it’s ok then he’s gonna go kill some Russians. Ok, he’s gonna go kill Russians now.
Then the final movie of our trilogy starts and I’m not sure what it is. Part Saw, Party Home Alone, part Friday the 13th. Basically the Equalizer lures the Russians to Home Mart where he kills them like a deranged mental patient from an eighties slasher flick, using nail guns, tree trimmers and barbed wire and of course our security guard friend is brave and super helpful and then all the Russians are dead. Then the Russian Hooker comes back to say thank you and tell the Equalizer that everything is great. The end.
So, yeah. I mean, it’s not terrible. If you were getting dragged to it by your SO who loves Denzel then you’ll be fine, it’s fun. It’s not the kind of thing that makes you go, “Oh, go see it, it’s fantastic!” but it’s also not the kind of thing that makes you go, “Ugh, I can’t believe I sat through this.”
I just noticed while writing this that it’s very eighties-centric and maybe that was on purpose. The eighties slasher movie ending, the Russian mob, hookers with a heart of gold in trouble; perhaps I just didn’t realize how awesomely that theme was put together.
But then again I grew up in the eighties and it wasn’t that great to begin with. And since they didn’t even bother to do an updated version of that cool synthesizer music I give this a solid B- instead of a B+. Should have given me the music.