Category: Suspense/Thriller

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.


While it pales in comparison to the original, that does not mean Jaws 2 is a terrible film.

As much as I love the original Jaws (1975) I think that it’s sequel, Jaws 2 gets a bad rap. Sure, we don’t really get any memorable characters like Hooper or Quint, but we do have returning characters/actors and a handful of the production team of the first film. It must count for something. But there are three main reasons why I love Jaws 2, and several minor reasons.

Part of the magic of the first film is that, due to production challenges, there was a choice not to show too much of the killer shark. It gave us a unique lesson in film in that sometimes less is more. It also suggested that it is not always wise to always show your monster right away, but tease the viewer with glimpses. Granted, this is not an absolute. There have been effective thrillers and horror pictures where the threat is in the open and in front of you. But that’s usually reserved for “individual” monsters and killers, be it Chucky from ‘Child’s Play’, Freddy from ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’ or the demonic car of ‘Chistine’. The ‘Jaws’ formula of not showing the ‘monster’ too much is more like Greg McLean’s ‘Rogue’, about a killer crocodile.

The success of the ‘Jaws’ structure did not follow up in the sequel; the shark is seen early and often. But one of the added bonuses of the film is that when Brody (Roy Scheider) has reason to believe that a new shark is picking up where the previous one left off. While additional safety measures have been added in between both films – most notably a shark tower- Brody has become the new Quint in a matter of speaking. He is obsessed with finding his foe once again. When Amity’s polititians fire Brody, it is with good reason. It isn’t that Brody may or may not be right. It is the mere fact that he himself caused a (well meaning) panic, drew his gun and fired in the water. We know there’s a new shark out there, He knows there’s a new shark out there. Maybe the city council is in denial. But they also know Brody is a paranoid loose cannon. The taking away of his job as Sheriff is a nice character blow. Added to that, we know he’s right, and so are his superiors.

Hello and GOODBYE!

Yes, the family and character moments in Jaws 2 do have some depth to them, and when Brody pretty much goes it alone, he’s got almost no support aside from his wife and his deputy (now called ‘Jeff’ instead of ‘Leonard’ for some reason) who are left behind when the third act kicks in. The events leading up to that third act is what makes this film. It’s a given, isn’t it? Gimmie a sequel and I’ll give you more shark. But what a bonus! See folks, it’s really simple here. We have got, in disgise, a Dead Teenager Movie. The teens rebel, sneak out, must pay the price for lust, and will sacrifice themselves for friends or a young kid. The death toll is a bit higher, and we got four memorable demises. One is really stupid where, after Mr. Shark snaps away a water-skier he goes after the person in the boat. That person, for some oddball reason, pours gasoline all over herself (although in a panic) and indirectly causes the boat to explode. Luckily, she also scars up the shark a bit as well. Later we find that woman’s burned up body as Brody faces (again) his fear of water. Another is Eddie, but only because of the aftermath when his girlfriend Tina is severely traumatized. This makes us have some feeling for the poor kid. The next best “death” is that of Marge, who dies heroically. (Even if,in the days of my youth and HBO at my friend’s house, this was actually a stupid way to go, although not as dumb as gas can woman) But there is THE HIGHLIGHT of Jaws 2, where in the few years after viewing on cable, me and my friends actually thought the shark lept out of the water and clamped down on the heliocopter. Yes it did chomp down, but it didn’t shoot up like a dancing dolphin either. By today’s standards, this event is not as interesting as, say, what would have the attack on the Killer Whale might have been. It also was a lame way to go overall (a deleted DVD scene shows the pilot becoming the sandwich) but back then in the late 70s/early 80s? On the box? Golden moment, folks.

The teens pray to God, and vow never to sail near dangerous underwater power lines again.

But there’s something more for me than all this and just the classic tagline (“Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water”) and that is those days of geek youth. Sure, we loved Star Wars, Rocky, got into Conan a little bit . But then there was Jaws, and specifically, Jaws 2. I still recall my best buddy Shawn, in front of the TV and the HBO box, proclaiming with every shark snack…

Bye, Bye, Bab-eeeeee

and it was tough not to get a smile. And yes, we all thought the death of the shark by electric cable was nothing short of badass. In passing years, I love the first Jaws more and more, as I think it has aged better than Jaws 2. But while not every filmmaker will follow the ‘less is more’ guideline, there is one thing I would love to see filmmakers take from Jaws 2. A Dead Teenager film that has dead teenagers we not only care about – but having the main protagonist be someone who faces problems and who knows a little more than the kids do. That’s not a bad thing folks, if that character has thier best intrests at heart.

Revenge pictures are kinds of movies that Hollywood makes every now and then, because, in the pitch of some of these ideas is a thought provoking issue. If some unfair, tragic event happened to you, how far would you go to seek justice? What would be possible consequences of taking the law into your own hands? In addition, since movies are an escape, they provide an outlet for such fantasy. The bad guys in these films are rarely equipped to handle an average person who snaps. Or even a person who was in some part connected to law enforcement.

But this is a limited appeal. Revenge pictures don’t work. There are few exceptions, although even I wasn’t a huge fan of Quentin Tarintino’s Kill Bill films, although I will always enjoy his other pictures. I will concede that Kill Bill had a number of elements in its favor. The pop-culture references, the send up of the Shaw brothers kung fu pictures, and the mere fact that the fight between the Crazy 88’s and The Bride is a thrill. The reason why Kill Bill as well as The Crow have a following is because they booth added more than just a revenge picture. The Crow had not only a surpernatual element and a surreal worldscape, but also the accidental death of its star, Brandon Lee. In that film, the actor gives dialog like “I’m dead and I move”. It wasn’t meant to be literal, but since that film’s release, it is. When the sequels to The Crow happened, the morbid, if not entertaining appeal was gone. The unintended subtext was no longer there. The Crow, like most other characters that are based around revenge motives, have little going for them other than that. They exist for no other purpose. In general, revenge pictures don’t work. There’s usually nothing at stake for the protagonist but simply just to get even. The antagonist’s goals are only to be the foil for the retaliation. It becomes an action picture without action, just reaction. Continue reading