Copyright © 2014 by Columbia Pictures
A retired black ops specialist, Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) returns to his old life after witnessing his teenage friend, Teri/Alina (Chloë Grace Moretz), a Russian escort being violently beaten by her procurer, Slavi (David Meunier). Unable to resolve the matter peacefully, he kills Slavi and his men. The head of the business, Vladimir Pushkin (Vladimir Kulich) deploys his ruthless henchman, Teddy (Marton Csokas) to investigate the deaths through assistance from Frank Masters (David Harbour), a Boston policeman under the mob’s payroll. Always a step ahead, McCall manages to evade Teddy’s trail until the sadist threatens to kill his co-workers in Home Mart, including Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis) whom he has helped train for a position as the store’s security guard.
Here is a fun fact: Washington won his second Oscar for ‘Best Actor’ in a sublime performance as a crooked law enforcement officer in his 2001 partnership with current director of said reboot, Antoine Fuqua. The actor’s subtle yet invigorating depiction in ‘Training Day’ was enough to steal the thunder from frontrunner, Russell Crowe whose odds had been in his favour for a consecutive win since the recognition was first bestowed to the Aussie prior via the sword-and-sandal hit, ‘Gladiator’.
A decade later, the two are in competition again but instead of battling it out in the Dolby Theatre for the opportunity to be grateful on prime time, they are vying for the same project. You do not need three guesses as to who came up victorious. To Crowe’s credit, he may have loss the chance of embodying an efficient former government operative from the Edward Woodward-starred series that ran in the mid-1980s, at least, he is fairly compensated (critically anyway) personifying a biblical saviour in the spring release ‘Noah’.
For one who has never seen let alone heard of its originator, I went in with little expectations and was duly motivated only by Washington and Moretz. From what I gather, the gist and the title are the only components that are used in an otherwise original creation. Positioning himself as what Liam Neeson has accomplished of late, the 59-year-old scores with another number one opener and has the distinction of being the largest September debut for an R-rated picture.
While Neeson’s last few selections i.e ‘Unknown’ and ‘Non-Stop’ are high concept political risk takers, Washington plays it safe for more standard fare. Generic, yes but still engrossing thanks to an immensely likeable lead and memorable supporting works provided by the always dependable Moretz, a scene-stealing comic showstopper from Harbour and Csokas is adequate as the heartless Russian tasked of hunting down McCall.
If halfway through déjà vu begins to kick in, that is because the thrills are a mélange from other action and horror classics. You read right. Horror! Fuqua effectively uses many night scenes to heighten the sense of dread when our Equalizer is out dispensing justice, whether they are the mob, dishonest cops or petty thieves. Though the running time clocks in at 131 minutes, Richard Wenk’s script does not break new ground but is justified by pivotal subplots which integrates coherently to the main story.
They are done right by a skilled director whose last effort is the equally enjoyable ‘Olympus Has Fallen’. While the White House under terrorist command is a comeback vehicle for Gerard Butler, his latest dives into the ongoing fight against the morally challenged that needs to be eradicated for good but only looks poised on becoming bigger threats. Well, if at first you do not succeed, keep on trying (with a sequel or two along the way) and you can be sure there is no crime our man cannot equalize.
Rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, including some sexual references