The Oscar winner doesn’t always pick the freshest projects, but he rarely makes out and out duds. His reunion with “Training Day” director Antoine Fuqua, “The Equalizer,” is just such a dud, no matter how many explosions ignite during the film’s bloated running time.
Ostensibly a remake of the ’80s crime drama, the film offers little of that series’ DNA. Instead, we get 10 minutes of character development followed by an eternity of garish kills and bad guy chest thumping. This is straight to video fare gussied up as a vehicle worthy of Washington’s talents.
Washington stars as Robert McCall, a gentle worker at a Home Depot-style chain. Kudos for Sony for not succumbing to product placement Nirvana. Half the film is set in and around the store.
McCall befriends a young prostitute (Chloe Grace Moretz) at a local diner, and when her pimp beats her McCall snaps into action. Turns out the borderline OCD guy with the penchant for books is also an elite killing machine.
Now, the Russian mobsters pulling the pimp’s strings want to know who did those awful things to their employee, pitting an entire gang against one unarmed man.
It’s not a fair fight.
It’s also a downright ugly one, filled with skimpy supporting characters, inane dialogue and laughable cliches. When McCall walks away from an explosion – in slow motion, of course – you might think you’re watching an action movie parody.
The film later changes course, swapping out action tropes for torture porn. Our hero breaks out the shop’s best tools and lays waste to the bad guys, offering kill scenes that wouldn’t look out of place in a “Saw” sequel. Fuqua’s camera lingers over these impalings, making sure we don’t miss a drop of splattered blood. It’s pure exploitation, and beneath the dignity of everyone involved.
Somewhere, Washington’s Oscar statue is covering its eyes.
Marton Czokas, who looks like a pissed off Kevin Spacey, plays McCall’s nemesis. He’s having a blast, reveling in his bad guy bona fides, which the film spends forever burnishing. OK, he’s littered with tattoos, kills innocent women and has nary a hint of a soul. We got it. Now tell us a story.
Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo appear mid film, have the self respect to look embarrassed, and then are sent back to the coffee truck off set.
The film even suggests McCall has superhuman powers. Before he launches into another killing spree the camera shows us what he sees. He soaks in every detail, the watch someone is wearing, the tats on his neck, as if downloading the visuals before his first blow.
Is he a 50-something working stiff or a potential “Avengers” recruit?
At 2 hours and 11 minutes, “The Equalizer” doesn’t even have the good sense to wrap things up in a hurry. Instead, we’re treated to one last kill, albeit a death that makes even less sense than the rest of the deaths combined.
DID YOU KNOW: Denzel Washington’s first acting experience came as a boy of roughly 8 years of age at a Boys and Girls Club show. He later became a national spokesman for the group.