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The Equalizer (2014)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/30/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/16/2014
It seems that every decade, it becomes more difficult to get old. 50 is the new 40. 60 is the new 50. And so on. Thanks to advances in medical science and an overall increase in longevity, being "old" doesn't mean the same thing anymore. This sort of attitude has spread into the movies, most notably action films. We've seen older actors like Bruce Willis inRed and Liam Neeson in practically everything -- Taken, The A-Team, and Non-Stop to name a few. Sixty-year old Denzel Washington has now thrown his hat into the ring. He's been in some action movies in the past, but The Equalizer is a full-on testosterone-fest. Will Denzel be the "equal" of his peers.
Washington stars in The Equalizer as Robert McCall, a mild-mannered man who works at Home Mart, and enjoys encouraging his co-workers, especially Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis), who wants to be a security guard. McCall lives alone in a spartan apartment. He has difficulty sleeping, so he spends most nights at a diner, where he sits alone and reads. Most night, he chats with a young prostitute named Alina (Chloe Grace Moretz). When Alina is beaten by her pimp and lands in the hospital, Robert decides to get involved. He begins to wage a war on the local Russian mafia. An enforcer named Teddy (Marton Csokas) is sent in to take care of the problem, and a battle of wills with Robert begins. This raises the question, who is Robert and how does he know how to do these things?
Given his somewhat diverse career (more on that later), it's not surprising that Denzel would want to branch-out and take-on a full-on action movie. The question is, why would we choose this script? Based (supposedly) on the 1980s television show, The Equalizer is so far beneath someone as revered as Denzel that it's ridiculous. This is one of those movies that if it weren't for the presence of a major star, would be relegated to late-night cable.
There are so many things wrong with this movie, that it's difficult to know where to start. The first thing which jumped out at me was how unoriginal the story was. Quiet loner turns out to be a badass? Hmmm...we've never seen that before. And the Russian mob? Seriously? Could anything be more cliched? And the villains far perfectly within those stereotypes, with their broken English and plethora of tattoos. Wait a minute, did I say story? That's a bit of an over-statement. It takes forever for anything to actually happen in the film and when it does, it's not very impressive. The entire thing is so hollow -- We watch McCall beat people up and blow things up and it means nothing. You know why? Because he's apparently doing it all simply because a girl that he doesn't really know got beat up. I'm not saying that some sort of retaliation wasn't called for, but it would have meant a lot more had it been someone that he (and the audience) had truly connected with. (And then she disappears for 80% of the movie!) According to the extras, the movie thinks that it's doing something monumental by keeping McCall's background vague. Trust me, this is the least of its problems. The movie also can't decide who McCall is. He likes to be alone and he shuns others...but he can't mind his own business. The second half of the movie is like a video game, as we suddenly see McCall doing side-missions to help others right some wrong. Storywise, this is clearly meant to show how McCall is coming out of his shell, but all that it does is distract from the main plot. And it only serves to lengthen what is already a very bloated and overlong movie. I enjoyed Director Antoine Fuqua's last outing --Olympus Has Fallen -- but he's lost all sense of pacing here. I apologize for the rant, but this movie's list of sins is seemingly never-ending.
I know that many revere Denzel Washington, but I've never been a fan. Why? Because he comes across as incredibly humorless and he leads the pack in actors who appear to take themselves far too seriously (with Daniel Day-Lewis standing right behind him). He also seems to play the same character over and over. Still, I can't blame him for wanting to jump on-board the action bandwagon, especially with a project which clearly wants to be a franchise. But, despite this film's inexplicable box-office success, in my opinion, he backed the wrong horse. The Equalizer is garbage from beginning-to-end, as it offers hackneyed senseless violence with no exploration of story or character. Go back to your stone-faced dramas Denzel, and leave this kind of work to Liam Neeson.
The Equalizer probably lead to some face-palming at Home Depot on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 23 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no notable grain or defects from the source materials. This is a dark movie, but the image is never overly dark and the action is always visible. We don't get a lot of bold colors here, but the tones do look natural. The level of detail is excellent, as we can make out every line on the actor's faces and the depth is very good. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.0 Mbps. (That's a pretty low bitrate for 7.1 track.) The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The bass, from the music and from explosions, works well, without distortion or drowning out the other sounds. The stereo effects show good separation and the surround effects really come into play during the finale.
The Equalizer Blu-ray Disc contains several extra features. "Inside The Equalizer" (8 minutes) is a general making-of which focuses on the story and characters, while also touching on how the project came to be. We get comments from Washington, Moretz, and the creative team, who give us the standard soundbytes. "Denzel Washington: A Different Kind of Superhero" (7 minutes) focuses on Denzel's involvement in the film and has various parties comment on what it was like working with the actor. "Equalizer Vision: Antoine Fuqua" (7 minutes) profiles the director, allowing him to comment on the film, while others talk about his working style. Moretz's character is explored in "Children of the Night" (5 minutes), which also touches on real-life prostitution and an agency which helps people in that world. "One Man Army: Training and Fighting" (7 minutes) looks at the stuntwork and the prep-work done for the film. This contains a good deal of on-set rehearsal footage. "Home Mart: Taking Care of Business One Bolt at a Time" (2 minutes) is a fake commercial made up of clips from the movie. The final extra is a PHOTO GALLERY offering stills from the film.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long