The Equalizer

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05/10/14

Older readers may have fond memories of a TV series featuring Edward Woodward as McCall, a retired MI6 operative who operates as an avenging angel for hire by anyone who finds themselves oppressed by villains. This film shares the basic plot and the character’s surname but, after that, all similarities end. Denzel Washington plays the American McCall, a quiet, seemingly mild-mannered chap who likes nothing more than a good book and a cup of herbal tea. He works at his local DIY superstore and often enjoys late night chats with a young call girl, Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), who is employed by a gang of Russian mafiosi. When Teri gets beaten up by them, McCall swings smoothly into action, unleashing a maelstrom of bone-crunching violence and we begin to realise that he’s not quite as mild-mannered as we might have thought. The plot thickens (and the body count rises) when top Russian hit man, Teddy (Martin Csokas looking like Kevin Spacey’s evil twin) arrives from mother Russia to take care of business.

Director Atoine Fuqua has directed Washington before, notably to Oscar glory in Training Day, but trust me, this film isn’t going to win any Oscars. It’s something of a mixed bag. Early action sequences are stylishly handled and Washington exudes a gravitas that carries much of the rather lightweight material, but the extended climactic shootout may as well have been titled 101 Ways To Die In B & Q, as Denzel unleashes every power tool in the shop in order to take out the veritable army of Russian thugs that has come to kill him. And how many times must we watch the same tired trope of the good man avenging the helpless female victim? (Washington has done that better in Man On Fire for Tony Scott.) Having said that, there is a kind of guilty pleasure to be had by watching the action unfold.

It’s a curate’s egg of a film. Good in parts, but more often indigestible.

3.2 stars

Philip Caveney

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