“The Equalizer” stars one of my favorite leading men, Denzel Washington, as a quiet man living a mundane life in Boston until the day he has a brush with the Russian Mob.
As the story unfolds, we learn very few details about Robert McCall, Denzel’s character in the film. He appears to be a person with a strong sense of justice and some expertise in health and fitness. He lives in an upstairs apartment in a modest neighborhood, rides the bus to work, and seems well liked by his co-workers at Home Mart, where he has a job in the lumber department.
Movie poster for ‘The Equalizer.’ Courtesy/Reel Deal Theater
None of that would make for much of a movie if it weren’t for the central mystery of the story, summed up in the question, “Who are you?” Robert gets asked that a lot. In the funniest scene, early in the film, his answer to a couple of co-workers is that he was once a Pip—you know, with Gladys Knight—and he busts some pretty respectable dance moves right there in Home Mart.
At home, where he lives alone, Robert’s bed is still made when morning comes; in fact, he doesn’t seem to sleep at all. In the middle of the night, he takes his own tea bag to a café, folded precisely in a napkin. The book he brings along to read must be placed just so on the table. His habits seem a bit OCD, everything perfectly calculated and carefully timed.
Light banter in the all night café with one of the other regulars leads to Robert’s open concern for a young woman obviously beholden to a dangerous pimp. The Russian pimp is only the tip of the iceberg of this particular mob, which has its fingers in many illegal industries on the east coast. Corrupt cops are, of course, a necessary part of their web, yet none of this scares Robert. As he stands up to the bad guys one by one, we begin to see that he is no ordinary vigilante. We can’t help cheering him on as he outsmarts each one.
The down side of this film? The bad guys use the f-word a lot (as in most movies that feature Boston). Oddly, the musical score tends toward superhero music at key points in the action. Every bad guy, predictably, has lots of tattoos, mostly satanic in their imagery. There is no love interest in the story. And the bad guys experience some very imaginative ways of getting dead. If you can’t stomach a film with lots of killing, this won’t be the movie for you. But if you wonder what shooting up a home improvement store would look like, here’s your answer.
The Equalizer is rated “R” for all the right reasons—language and bloody killings. Some of the dialogue is rather quiet, so be prepared to turn up your hearing aids. But if you want to see some really evil mobsters get their due, check out this film.