For all the swift, savage efficiency with which Antoine Fuqua stages his action, it’s disappointing that The Equalizer isn’t as lean as it could’ve been, plodding at crippling, near-operatic length for what is basically routine exploitation fare. Anyone unfamiliar with the ‘80s Edward Woodward show which it’s based on, fear not – this movie bears more resemblance to the male revenge fantasies that’ve been spilling blood on our screens with increasing, somewhat tiresome regularity of late. If anything, it’s nastier than most studio product, the mood curdling into horror-like grimness that doesn’t let up for large swathes of its running time.
Denzel Washington is coasting, but able to do so with a formidable presence lacking in other actors of his generation who aren’t Liam Neeson, and fans who pay good money to see the man jam corkscrews into faces should be well-served. It’s not enough that The Equalizer be a simple story about a former black ops-turned-normcore home improvement store worker who slays a Russian pimp for beating up his teenage prostitute friend. The film aspires to be A Serious Vigilante Epic, with an eye towards potential franchise expansion, hence giving its insomnia-plagued, Hemingway-reading anti-hero the chance to take out the corrupt trash of the Boston police force and eventually sever the “head of the snake” in Moscow.
Both corny and unremittingly ugly, The Equalizer may well fulfil your dreams of watching Washington play the ultimate MacGyver Ninja, but when the spotty catharsis it offers dissipates, all you’re left with is a thunderously over-scored Man on Fire Redux that leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
‘The Equalizer’ Movie Times