equalizer-filmAfter watching this film, I had two questions buzzing around my mind. First question – if it wasn’t for the brand name of the 80s action-drama show, Denzel Washington , the bad guy intro of Marton Csokas and being directed by one of my favorite directors (Antoine Faqua)… could this movie be easily forgettable? SecondWhat’s the difference between Denzel Washinton and Steven Seagal? The answer to the latter is that Washington is a better actor – but you’d hardly know it from this mess. Ol’ Sensei Steven could have shown up as McCall and—hey don’t gimmie those grumpy looks. Here’s a checklist for you:

In the movie, McCall is a former black ops agent who faked his own death but now comes out of retirement to play vigilante justice.

  • McCall is three steps ahead of the bad guys. Always. Check.
  • McCall knows the moves the bad guys make before they make them. Check.
  • McCall can set explosions and walk away without so much as a breeze on his back.Check.
  • McCall gets very zen. Check.
  • McCall fights Russian Mobbers who are into dope and prostitution and/or sex trafficking. Check.
  • McCall fights dirty cops. Check and mate.

Oh yes, the dirty cops. Not one, not two but three of them. Two of the three are running some sort of protection racket on local store and restaurant owners. One such store is owned by a mother of a co-worker of McCall’s at the local Home Depot-like place. The co-worker is hoping to make security guard rank at the store, but the bad cops set a kitchen fire and it sets him back. McCall – who has taken the store job while having a low profile- helps his friend and turns the tables on the two bad cops. Later we find out they were on the payroll of the Russian Mob that is hunting McCall for an unrelated but more noticable iffense – taking out a room full of guys Seagal style. It’s contrived, cliched and a big yawn. Also, do you wonder if said friend will pass his Security test and play such a part in the final shootout? Of course not.

If Denzel isn’t channeling Seagal, then he’s channeling any or all of the following: Jack Reacher, The Punisher, Clarence from True Romance and possibly Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. Never once is McCall a stand out character. It’s also a slight reinvention of the TV show character so you won’t get any callbacks to the series until the last frame of the movie where the Equalizer Want Ad is updated. Yeah, we “Need Help” alright. Stylistically, the film isn’t bad. It’s just below average.

Faqua helmed the better of the two abysmal White House themed action pictures last year (the one with Gerald Butler, if that helps- it don’t, awww shucks) but he also directed better pictures. I’ll still have a guilty pleasure in King Arthur, Tears Of The Sun and Brookyn’s Finest. Training Day was and still is outstanding. Nobody’s forgotten that. But in an answer to my first question, if if wasn’t for the TV series this is loosely based on and the talent, you’d forget this film in a week. By the way, halfway in the picture, Chloë Grace Moretz  is forgotten about.

I don’t mind at all if it wasn’t like the TV series – it should be noted Edward Woodward’s McCall was a former spy and if he wasn’t outsmarting mobbers and thugs, he’d team up with old spy friends and take down mad Euro-terrorists. That show wasn’t campy either. It had some great episodes and bright spots. But a new film at least has to be the essence of that character, and it seems to have missed by a country mile. It’s all routine. Alright but nothing special.

Would I be more forgiving if it was a Steven Seagal film? No. But this happens to star Denzel Washington, and he reteams with Faqua. I expect more.

I give The Equalizer a 2 1/2 out of 10.