Tuesday, December 30, 2014

THE EQUALIZER (2014)



Directed By: Antoine Fuqua 
Written By: Richard Wenk 
Based on the Series Created By: Michael Sloan & Richard Lindheim 
Cinematography By: Mauro Fiore 
Editor: John Refoua 


Cast: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Haley Bennett, Melissa Leo, Bill Pullman, James Wilcox

A man believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and has dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when he meets a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can't stand idly by - he has to help her.

I will warn you from the get-go there are spoilers in this review

The film is obviously true beginning of a franchise if they so choose to, though works as a stand-alone film also.

If they were to move forward with it Denzel Washington would be One of the First African American's to have an successful action franchise

Nothing remarkably different about his action film at times. They could almost be bigger budgeted Liam Neeson type films. Which Denzel Washington seems to go for these days there is the odd dramatic role, but usually followed by a big budget action film or thriller. What makes it more noteworthy is like Neeson he seems to have waited until he was older to play roles like this he is now 60 years old and here he is taking out whole gangs without changing his facial expression. It makes sense that action heroes are getting older as the characters they play tend to be experts and have violent histories usually working in the field as cops, mercenaries, government agents or military. When you need a hero to make mistakes and rise to the top go with younger, but when looking for an all knowing or a character looking for revenge or redemption go with an older actor. You'll also probably get a better performance. The script originally has no back story about Robert, so Denzel Washington contributed much to the character's background and back story including Robert having obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In addition to his daily physical and fight training before filming, Washington met and interviewed several real-life OCD people as to gain insights of how to play that disorder correctly.

The films direction and style Reminds you of classic Tony Scott type action films, Of course they're easily predicable, but still manage throughout to impress with visuals and the hard edged violent nature of the film. The film at times gets downright brutal.

It also doesn't help that the plot line and film feel like they were dreamt up for an 80's/90's type high concept action film. Which I would like to believe is part of an homage to the television show it is based on. As this could have been an episode or a season long conspiracy. Though Edward Woodward didn't kill as many people in all his seasons of the show, as Denzel kills by the end of this film. In fact even near the end.

One of the problems with the film is that we never feel any suspense on his part. The villains though formidable aren't really a threat more like an obstacle for him. So that it feels like a horror film from the killers perspective. Only here the victims/villains ask for it. As we watch his clinical methods and never betrayed face become stoic no pleasure and no pain. No real challenge we just watch to see how he will eliminate and get out of the situation. Like a horror movie monster only this one is on the side of the truth, but is also motivated out of revenge and doesn't stop. More like a machine then human. Sounds like horror to me.

Russell Crowe and Gerard Butler Were each considered for the lead role.

Melissa Leo and Bill Pullman here more for cameos as Chloe Grace Moretz is only in a few scenes and seems more here only to set things in motion. So basically most of the caucasian names that are recognizable aren't in the film much. Even though the films running time is just about over two hours.

Actress Chloe Grace Moretz fought for the role of Teri when she found out it was written for someone of the age of 24. She presented herself so well, the director immediately made the change. Melissa Leo previously guest starred in The EQUALIZER: THE DEFECTOR

The film can try to trick itself thinking at first it's a character piece. Although really we never learn too much about Washington's character. So it's more a revenge film with a skilled vigilante. That is like MAN ON FIRE except without the brains, drama and downbeat ending. Though his enemies are just as many if not more.

No doubt Denzel Washington can do this type of film in his sleep. so this is more of a paycheck role and the chance to not only have a franchise but an action film character, who can maybe become immortalized as one of the legendary ones. Even if it is based on a popular television series.

The villain the film offers up shows him to be a dangerous sociopath with a hair trigger, With the anger of a beast in one scene where we see him unleashed. Though in other scenes we see his cold calculated side, but only the aftermath of his actions and though face to face with Denzel Washington quite a few times. When it comes time for the Mano e Mano fight. It is short barely a fight and before that he was sending hundreds of soldiers after him. Making him seem a bit cowardly already. As far as movie villains go. So once they are face to face it feels like another film Denzel Washington acted in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.

McCall is never actually shown shooting a firearm. At the restaurant, he twists a henchman's arm forcing him to shoot his boss. Towards the end of the film McCall only uses the rifle for the scope and eventually uses a nail gun. Everyone else is
neutralized by other creative means.

The Main villain is sadistic seems too skinny and the villains feel faceless could have been anybody. Not to put down the actors performance. He looks nice in his suits and has the menacing look and appropriate demeanor. The film even bothers to display the character with haunting evil tattoos all over his body. In one scene that is truly a misstep and really over the top camera angle for no reason other than it looks cool and is more distracting then anything. I guess it was meant to bring an otherworldly angle to him.

If a sequel were to happen. Exploring more of Washington's character history would be a good start. Rather than too much action, As he easily makes his way through this with formidable enemies without really being challenged. So if in a sequel he was challenge by a smaller entity. It would be laughable. It definitely must be done bigger preferably better.

This is a satisfying rental that should be noted more for it's style and what it does with skimpy substance. It feels like the star and director Antoine Fuqua reunited from TRAINING DAY. They both Took something with potential and a basic script and improvised the visuals and action to make the film more interesting.

The film languished in development hell for several years before it finally began. It was originally developed by the Weinstein brothers in 2005. They brought in novelists Michael Connelly and Terill Lee to write the first script with Paul McGuigan to direct. With no progress, in 2010, the rights were then sold to Mace Neufeld and Escape Artists'. Paul Haggis was brought in to write another draft with Russell Crowe to play Robert. However other project commitments resulted in both men dropping out before Denzel Washington saw the script and expressed interest in playing Robert.

Nicolas Winding Refn was the original director but left the project one month later in January 2013 when he could not agree to contractual terms with the producers on his deal. Rupert Wyatt was the next person approached, but he declined citing scheduling problems (Wyatt also turned down directing DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES for the same reason.) before they finally offered it to Antoine Fuqua.

This is a film that if you are just looking for a solid action film. You won't be disappointed but if you are looking for more you will.

It's over the top but tires to bring a certain attitude that is both somber and serious.

Grade: C+

No comments: