Friday, September 26, 2014

Denzel morphs into killing machine in unintentionally funny ‘The Equalizer’

By Steve Crum
Denzel Washington in a superhero flick—the last of this summer yet? Holy Unexpected, Bats-in-the-Belfry Man! While Mr. Washington and director Antoine Fuqua successfully teamed 13 years ago for Training Day (Denzel won the Best Actor Oscar), the result of this reunion in The Equalizer is unintentionally laughable. Please realize it is not intentionally a superhero movie either. In it, Denzel is mild mannered Robert McCall, a well liked building supplies employee who has a dark side to the extreme. 
We don’t know much about his past, but he is now a quiet, unassuming bachelor who lives alone and enjoys reading. The classics he peruses range from H. G. Wells’ The Invisible Man to Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. He strongly (and strangely) identifies with the books, which adds to the bizarreness of his psyche. 
“You gotta be who you are,” McCall advises Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), a young, beleaguered hooker he befriends. Practicing his preaching, McCall is indeed a man who takes on insurmountable odds (The Old Man and the Sea) while “invisibly” lurking from the shadows. This sophomoric symbolism comes to us via the film’s screenwriter, Richard Wenk. 
When McCall exits those shadows, he does so bringing wrath via hellacious slaughter on his enemies. It is during his terroristic phases that we get the hint McCall has obviously been trained as an assassin. He is also a very meticulous guy who sets his stopwatch before the rampage begins, evidently trying to beat his old record. 
Cut to a closeup of his eye twitching and mouth pursing, as he surveys the surroundings from his viewpoint like a still camera clicking away at warp speed. Immediately he morphs into “The Equalizer,” even though he is never called such. He wears no costume, just street clothes. His weapons include his Ninja-like maneuvers, and whatever objects are on the shelf or coffee table nearby. He even turns adversaries’ guns and knives back on them. The guy is a marvel. Call him Captain Marvel, in fact. But no, that name has been taken. 
McCall’s eye-twitching metamorphosis is triggered by emotional response, in defense of himself or a friend. Honestly, it is reminiscent of Bruce Banner becoming enraged and turning into The Hulk. Maybe the movie going public will be caught up in all the histrionics. I found it hilariously hokey. At 131 minutes, it at least 45 minutes too long. Okay, 131 minutes too long. 
Vastly unlike its namesake 1985-89 TV series, starring Edward Woodward, this Equalizer is state-of-the-art violent. Like the TV show, however, our hero (in the original, a detective) takes on needy souls in physical danger. 
There are several violent confrontations, each accompanied by an ear piercing rap soundtrack by Eminem and associates. Without giving away too much, let me say I have never seen power tools, right off the store rack, used so effectively against Russian mafia thugs. 
It is enough to start one’s eye twitching. 

GRADE on an A-F scale: D-

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