McCall (Denzel Washington) believes he has put his mysterious past behind him in order to lead a quiet life. But when he meets Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), a young girl under the control of Russian gangsters, he has to help her. McCall comes out of his self-imposed retirement, he finds his desire for justice reawakened, using his hidden skills.
Review by Louise Keller:
The pensive, brooding calm of an in-form Denzel Washington as the man who has to do what he does - because he can - alleviates this gritty thriller from Training Day director Antoine Fuqua, in which Washington plays the Russian mafia as if it were a deadly chess game. Based on an 80s TV series starring Edward Woodward, the character of McCall (Washington) is an intriguing one; a contradiction in terms. Like a rousing piece of music that starts pianissimo and swells to an explosive crescendo, the film takes its time establishing character before embarking on a slippery dip of no return, in which mind games are the foundation of hard-hitting action.
The first thing we notice about McCall is his precision and attention to detail in his routine, everyday life in which he works in a home improvement warehouse (think Bunnings). Every second counts - even as he shaves his head, polishes his shoes and neatly folds a teabag into a serviette. His apartment is sparse and tidy, with little to personalize it except for the hundreds of books that grace the shelves. He takes one of these books each night to the late night diner; he can't sleep. It is there that he observes Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), a call-girl for a Russian escort agency, seeking sugar-hit solace from dessert.
It doesn't escape us that he is reading a book about knights in shining armour and the first time they really talk is when Teri sports a tell-tale bruise on her pretty, young face. You don't look like a 'Bob' she says when he introduces himself. Robert reads books; Bob watches TV, she says, noting she sees something in his eyes. McCall's eyes and his astute observations become the film's key focus and Fuqua regularly hones in on Washington's eyes, notably when he is calculating the odds in any one of many situations in which he finds himself. The first one takes place in a plush Russian restaurant where a violent slaying takes place.
"Everything about him is wrong," Teddy (Martin Csokas) says of McCall, as a cat and mouse relationship develops between the two. I love the way they talk in riddles at their first meeting. Csokas is chilling as the heavily tattooed, quietly spoken Russian sent to fix the volatile situation that puts the multi-million dollar Russian illicit drug and prostitute ring in jeopardy. A sociopath without a businesscard is an apt description.
The fact that we readily accept the way McCall takes control of the rapidly unraveling situation in which gruesome killings take place, relies on the early character establishment in which his genuine concern for his fellow man is shown. He is a good man doing bad things. Tension erupts and McCall uses his considerable hidden skillset and the element of surprise to propel the action. The climactic sequence set in the home improvement store is unforgettable, with McCall using what is readily available as weaponry: cement, drills, wire, lights. The result is gruesome. All the performances shine and watch for Melissa Leo and Bill Pullman in small but important roles.
All the while, Harry Gregson-Williams' music score accentuates the drama, the tension and the stakes which increase by the second. There are many unforgettable moments, none more powerful than the look on Washington's face as he comes face to face with Csokas for the last time, his expression displaying a myriad of emotions: determination, pain, regret, horror, justice, inevitability and resolve.
Mark Twain's enigmatic quotation "The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why" as shown in the film's title card, offers food for thought from the get-go.
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EQUALIZER, THE (MA15+)
CAST: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Haley Bennett, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo
PRODUCER: Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Tony Eldridge, Mace Neufeld, Alex Siskin Michael Sloan, Steve Tisch, Denzel Washington, Richard Wenk
DIRECTOR: Antoine Fuqua
SCRIPT: Richard Wenk, (TV series by Michael Sloan & Richard Lindheim)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mauro Fiore
EDITOR: John Refoua
MUSIC: Harry Gregson-Williams
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Naomi Shohan
RUNNING TIME: 132 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 25, 2014