The Equalizer

By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on September 29, 2014

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Dear John Larson
Tool Man

Dear John,

There are a lot of crazy ways to die. No less than a thousand according to Spike TV, and up to a million according to Seth MacFarlane. Many successful film franchises, like Final Destination, Saw, and Friday the 13th, have made their reputations by finding creative ways to kill people off. That's fine for a horror film – and even the occasional comedy – but in the case of The Equalizer, the fact the filmmakers kept turning to an art department employee like you for their inspiration represents everything that's wrong with the film.

Maybe it was my fault to expect something of substance in the reunion of Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua, the director who coached him to an Academy Award in Training Day. After all, neither of them have made much else besides this sort of action vehicle since then. But even with lowered expectations, The Equalizer is constantly firing blanks.

Things start slow. Painfully slow. Richard Wenk's script doesn't seem to know where to begin or where to end, and relies on the presence of Denzel Washington to maintain our emotional interest. His character, Robert McCall, is a big fat zero on the scale of human charisma and interest. He has no depth, no flaws, no enigmas. When he's not readings book alone in a dinner, he's stocking shelves at a generic "Home Mart" department store. Because he's just your average tool man, like you.

Except this joe-job and dull-drum existence is supposed to be making a point. After an inordinate amount of time, it's revealed that (surprise!) McCall is just trying to live a normal life after a career doing covert U.S. government dirty work. He only fights crime after clocking out of his 9-5, which is when he becomes a monosyllabic unstoppable killing machine. What (with the exception, of course, of _The Terminator) _could be more boring?

Killing – or more specifically, the ways people are killed – shouldn't be the only pulse in a serious action-drama-thriller. Seeing bad guys get their comeuppance is cathartic when, after the tension reaches a breaking point, violence explodes. But that's not the case in The Equalizer. It's inspired by a TV show, not only in content but in form: the film is unevenly paced up and continues to deviate into side story adventures that offer little relevance to the A-plot.

And that story involves a lot of your tools and the creative ways they kill people. Which is fine, until McCall literally starts stepping over machine guns in favour of hardware store props—you know, just to keep his life interesting. He calmly walks into countless confrontations with villains, always "giving them a chance" before dispatching them with ease. He's never in any real danger, and lazy cross-cutting tries to trick the audience into believing the bad guys are always right on his tail. Instead, he's always five steps ahead in ways the filmmakers don't even try to explain. He has every tool he ever needs, be it electronic gizmos or hedge- (and head-) trimming shears.

Feeling like a tool for looking forward to this,


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