Denzel Washington is the sort of actor who can do anything. He is convincing as a dramatic actor, can lose himself in a transformative role and is more than capable when it comes to action movies. He doesn’t necessarily jump to the top of people’s action star lists but Washington makes being a bad-ass hero look easy and it is because of this that The Equalizer is so watchable.
Washington adds gravitas. In anyone else’s hands, this would feel like a cheap action movie. The kind of action film we have seen many times before and usually done much better but Washington makes any film credible and elevates the quality with his own distinct style and this is why The Equalizer is better than it really should be.
For starters, it takes itself seriously. This works for some absurd films and although The Equalizer is not quite as absurd as others, the idea of a one-man wrecking ball who can dispatch a room full of enemies, while timing the proceedings on his watch, is one which could get silly quickly. Whether it is director Antoine Fuqua’s intention from the outset or just the fact that Washington forced his hand, The Equalizer treats the action seriously and the movie plot without the tongue-in-cheek style that others would lean into.
Those action sequences are also very impressive and Washington delivers, with quick hands, lightening take-downs and using a gun as if an expert. Alongside the action is his more tender scenes, with the people he is helping. Be it a co-worker who wants to lose weight through to the young prostitute who catapults the plot of the movie forward, these scenes work and help you feel sympathy for Washington and root for the good guys.
It also helps that the villain is the kind that you want to see get his comeuppance. He isn’t quite cartoon bad guy but does do things that will make you want to see Washington get his hands on him. Watching Washington’s McCall take down Marton Csokas’s criminal empire is satisfying and the finale does a good job of bringing the action to a clear and explosive head.
It is just a shame that with the seriousness, the gravitas, Washington and the cool action, that the film doesn’t offer more. Washington adds some depth but the story lacks it and what feels like it could have been a more complicated plot is really very straight-forward and quite shallow. You will enjoy watching The Equalizer but you may be left wishing it offered more and was slightly better.
Overall, The Equalizer is a great example of Washington’s action ability. Denzel adds depth and gravitas to a movie with a shallow plot and little complications. The villain is good though and it is always satisfying to watch Washington take down a really decent bad guy.
Rating – 4
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