Antoine Fuqua has always been an inconsistent Director. His career has encompassed the trivial (“Bait”), the gritty (“Training Day”), the entertaining (“Shooter”), the dull (“Tears Of The Sun” and “King Arthur”) to the downright cheesy (“Olympus Has Fallen”). With his latest film “The Equalizer”, it’s as though he’s bundled all the elements from all his previous films and made a gritty yet trivial, entertaining yet cheesy Revenge Thriller.
“The Equalizer” needlessly opens with a Mark Twain quote, either to add weight to the one-dimensional plot that follows, or maybe to detract from the fact that this is yet another Hollywood remake. In either case, the film which is set in Boston and which features Denzel Washington and Chloë Grace Moretz, is not helped nor hindered by this opening quote. In fact this becomes a trait of the film itself; it’s not that terrible, but it’s not exactly entertaining either. The Actors are good, but their portrayals are average, and the plot isn’t spectacular, but it’s not all that bad. All in all, the film is the very definition of adequate, average, or err… equal.
The plot concerns the character of ‘Robert McCall’ an average guy who works at a Home Depot-style store, but who has a mysterious past which he will not disclose to his co-workers. McCall who cannot sleep at night, hangs around the ‘Bridge Diner’ perusing through one of the “Top 100 Books We All Should Read” and conversing with local Prostitute ‘Teri’ who is being Pimped and intimidated by a Russian Gang. So far, so good, although by the time we meet Teri’s Pimp ‘Slavi’ and his contrived henchmen, the tone of the film begins to become difficult to believe. When Teri is beaten and hospitalised by Slavi, McCall exacts bloody revenge, killing everybody involved. The plot then spirals out of the realm of believability when more villains are sent from Russia to investigate the killings. From that point on, the film abandons its “Death Wish” style plot and becomes a D.I.Y.-Bourne-cum-Law-Abiding-Citizen.
Plot aside, the location itself is not a “Gone Baby Gone” Boston, and even though it’s dark and gritty at times, when corrupt Cop ‘Masters’ yells “fawk yaw, yaw muthafawker” for the umpteenth time, coupled with the weirdly caricatured Russian Gang Members; the movie ventures directly into the land of Pulp B-Movies and becomes more “The Heat” than “The Departed”. The addition of caricatured Russian villains makes what may have been a realistic Drama into a stylised piss-take with the character of ‘Teddy’ having an almost Hitler-like hair style, and one of Teddy’s ‘Guys’ sporting a gelled pointy moustache like some muscle-bound ‘Wario’. With Slavi driving around in a Mercedes SLS and his office consisting of gold gilding and a painting of Mary and Baby Jesus; it puts the aesthetics of “The Equalizer” directly into joke territory.
The Actors themselves aren’t that bad either. Chloë Grace Moretz with her plasticine-features at least looks believable as a Prostitute, and with Washington now age 59, he for once looks like an everyday unassuming bloke (who is also a former covert operations officer). There is also the quick addition of Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo who seem to be glad they’re not in “Independence Day” or “Olympus Has Fallen” respectively, but who add nothing to the run-of-the-mill screenplay.
Antoine Fuqua who for this film seems to borrow elements from other Directors (ranging from Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” slow-motion pre-fight planning to Martin Scorsese’s “Cape Fear” walk toward the camera) never really manages to pin-down his own style. With his constant blurring, focussing in and out, and panning of the camera; Antoine tries his very best to add atmosphere to the whole so-so affair. And although the shots in the film are not bad, “The Equalizer” never gives you enough excitement, enough tension, or anything to get your pulse racing; and for a Revenge Thriller or Action Thriller, that’s not a good thing. With the slowing down of the Oil Tanker explosion and the ignoring of McCall’s vicinity to the blast radius, when mediocre Writing and Directing meets bad Editing, “The Equalizer” becomes even more unbelievable and tacky. With his latest film, Antoine shows that deep down he is still a Music Video Director, I mean an empty Home Depot can be a scary place at night, but not in the hands of Fuqua. He is happy to be the go-to-guy for all your average filmic looks, never mastering anything, and never realising his own vision. Mr. Fuqua is the Pip to Hollywood’s Gladys Night… probably the one on the right (you’ll get that if you’ve seen the movie).
Antoine Fuqua’s Direction aside, the one ingredient that I felt was particularly in bad taste, was the implication that Washington’s character (who is possibly an ex-CIA Agent) is the very embodiment of Righteousness. Robert McCall is basically a vigilante who only hurts those who obviously “deserve it”. Forget Lady Justice, we have an almost Superhero-like character in McCall, who resides in a world so black and white that you never question whether he should kill the ‘bad-guy’. In this world, crime is caused by the Russian Mafia, and the only person who can fix this is an ex-Government, ex-assassin. When watching, I supoose we should all ignore that the US Drug problem (and by extension Prostitution) is partly because of documented CIA involvement and not because of foreigners.
The film ends with McCall flying to Russia to further his retribution, and once complete we are left with a dire-as-hell Eminem song which has absolutely nothing to do with the film. With Mathers’ lyrics moaning on about his own shitty career, the song is about as disconnected from the film as you can get, and makes what was a mediocre film seem a hundred times worse. Even though Lady Justice may wear a blindfold, the prick who picked this track to close the film must have been wearing ear-plugs. Once the credits end, and you’ve finished cringing over Slim Shady’s lame rap, you realise that Antoine Fuqua’s movie with it’s sequel possibilities would have made a great TV Show …oh wait, that’s right… it already was.
“The Equalizer” exposes how skewed and topsy-turvy the Entertainment Industry has become. These days something that would make great TV is now forced onto cinema, and every relatively short storyline is stretched into serial format for television. We now have classic TV Shows being transformed into Hollywood movies, and all the while TV Producers and Writers are busy fucking up what could be a great film by elongating simple plot-lines into 24 or more episodes. TV Remakes and their justification aside, let’s get back to Mark Twain whose quote opened this movie and whose works probably feature in the “Top 100 Books We All Should Read”. Unfortunately, “The Equalizer” is not in the “Top 100 Movies We All Should Watch” and all things being equal; I’d rather have watched the original television show.
A Remake Is Never Equal To The Original.