Monday, 29 September 2014

Review: The Equalizer

(2014) Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz, Marton Csokas

Ill start off by saying i was totally unaware that this film stemmed from a TV series until about a day before my cinema visit. I went into the film with nothing to compare it to and a strong hope that it would be better than A Walk Among The Tombstones, released the week prior. After being disappointed with Liam Neeson's latest action escapade I tried to not build my hopes up too much going into my second action film in 2 weeks, thankfully my mind was put at ease and i was gripped in mere minutes.
The Equalizer opened showing Robert played by Denzel Washington going through his morning routine, the audience quickly gets a sense that there is something very peculiar and regimented about his character. He wakes up before his alarm goes off, times himself getting dressed, making breakfast and other medial tasks. He catches the bus to each morning and travels to a hardware store (the US equivelent of B&Q) where he works as everyday warehouse man. The film shows Robert greeting and chatting with his fellow employees and has an interaction with a colleague who he agrees to help get into shape so that he can take a test to become the store's security officer. Robert later returns home and soon heads off to a local diner, we get hints that this is another regular part of his 'routine'. Its at this diner where we see him meet Teri, a call girl played by Chloe Grace Moretz.
After a brief introduction this is where the story picks up speed, the 2 engage in small talk night after night, Teri asking Robert about the books he bring to the diner and him discussing his opinions on them. He is fully aware of Teri's occupation yet he never judges her, only when we see the disdain in his eyes when unsavoury customers arrive for her do we get the sense that a storm is brewing. After a couple more nights and a particularly bad encounter with a client, Teri decides to sit at the same table as Robert. It is during this scene we learn more about his past and when Teri asks about his marital status we learn it is a dark and troubled one. This whole scene was brilliantly scripted and the portrayal of 2 very different people trying to smile through horribly painful circumstances was both gut wrenching as it was fascinating.
After moving the friendship forward, Robert walk Teri home but is interrupted when her employer drives by and after assaulting her, drags her away. The following night Teri isn't present at the diner and the manager informs Robert she is in hospital and being savagely beaten. It is this act of cruelty that awakens old demons and forces our hero to return to his old life.
Using his special set of skills he infiltrates the club where Teri's employers hide out and after they refuse to take is cash offer to buy he freedom, they set about him! We quickly see how his routine and planning is put to great use as the camera slowly scans the room showing all the lethal objects he has noticed to use against his foes. A zoom back in and Robert dispatches everyone in the room with brutal efficiency, corkscrews, broken bottles, knives everything is utilized to kill his attackers in grisly detail.
After the fiasco at the club Robert tries to return to his normal life, its here we see progression of the side characters. The employee he was helping has passed his test and is now the warehouse's security guard. Unaware of just how serious his action were we learn through a police investigation that he has in fact wiped out a portion of the Russian Mafia operating within the city. This then starts a cat and mouse game between him and the Mafia, all while trying to maintain his 'normal' persona.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Equalizer because it didn't pretend to be something it wasn't, it was written in an old school style vigilante style and stuck to a tried and tested formula. Not straying form it's path however did not mean it was a throw away action flick, there was a real sense of flare about it and had more polish on it than almost all recent films in it's genre. The pacing was very well thought out and stopped for breath when it needed to and not just to shoe horn in more plot points. When Denzel Washington wasn't punishing the baddies he was commanding your attention with really intense scenes of dialogue. The film featured some fantastic quotable scenes and real sassy one liners. In one particular scene, he interrupts the main villain's dinner by walking straight up and sitting down at his table. Both men had the opportunity to murder each other at this point but they fought with their words, this created and nail bitingly tense scene that ended with what felt like a slow exhale from the whole cinema. Denzel was just perfect for the role i felt as he bought so much class to it, he wasn't your typical chizzled hero but a man you might pass in the street or someone you'd interact with at work. His portrayal of Robert made him an extremely relateble and human feeling character which made me genuinely care about his outcome in the film. The film did leave a few points open to interpretation but this i get the sense that this was intentional and not just overlooked during the writing process. Although the pacing was well done i did feel that the overall running time was a tad too long, but thats just personal preference. I was also dissapointed we didn't see more of Chloe Grace Moretz because much like Denzel, she commanded the screen when ever she was on it, just felt like a her talents were under utilised some what. Overall The Equalizer was a fantastic modern take on the old school vigilante and revenge genre.

The Verdict

I can't praise The Equalizer enough, it had a firm grip on what type of film it wanted to be and stayed true to that until the final scene. The final scene was fantastic and took place in Robert's place of work, where a variety of garden and DIY tools were used to maim and butcher Russian gangsters in multiple ways. The cast and pacing of this film played to its main strength along with many extremely well choreographed fight sequences. My only gripes are the running time and lack of more Chloe Grace talent! This film is a clear cut above the rest of most action film produced this year, if it's one action flick you see this winter make sure its this one.


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