You may remember back in 2001 a gritty crime drama called TRAINING DAY, it made $22,550,788 on opening weekend with a domestic total gross of $76,631,907. The sweet success of the film was in no doubt due to its great director, Antoine Fuqua and talented stars Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. The film was nominated for two Oscars including one win for best actor in a leading role for Washington. Fuqua continued to prove his competance for directing intense action films with SHOOTER, BROOKLYN’S FINEST & OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN. While each of his films proved he had the talent to bring exciting action films to life, nothing quite compared to the sweet spot he had found working with Washington. When it was first announced the duo would be teaming up again for another crime drama it may have at first been looked at with some trepidation, but soon fans of Fuqua and Washington were excited to see what magic they would work together again.
This weekend was the opening of THE EQUALIZER and to no-ones surprise it opened up huge bringing in an estimated $35 million dollars and taking the number 1 spot at the box office making this the third biggest opening in Washington’s career. The film stars Denzel Washington opposite Chloe Grace Moretz in what is described as an action, crime, thriller based on the classic 80’s TV show starring Edward Woodard. If you didn’t watch the TV show don’t worry because when Grace Moretz was recently asked, in an exclusive interview with my friends over at MovieFanatic, if she “watched the old show to get ready or was everything you needed right on the page?”, she answered:
“No, they didn’t want us to watch the old show. When there’s original material that is so different from the original, you don’t want to look to it. It’s a complete reboot. We took the outline and we didn’t use any of what the TV show is.”
While I can’t say I remember the TV show, I can report that you can fully enjoy the movie without having seen an episode.
Fuqua’s attention to detail shines in the near-silent opening sequence of the film with close up shots that cause the viewer to pay attention to the meticulous and extremely methodic life of Robert McCall (Denzel Washington). As you watch the daily routine of this mysterious man, your mind starts reeling with ideas and causes you to actually think about what you are seeing in front of you, rather than just taking it in. He lives by a routine that is on the line of obsessive-compulsive disorder. You begin to see very clearly, thanks to Fuqua’s amazing vision, a man who lives a very quiet, simple life by a very strict schedule who cares deeply about the well-being of the people around him. You see him constantly trying to better the lives of people, whether it is just to get to work, or to help a co-worker lose the weight needed to pass the security guard test. But it is when we see him interact with Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), a young girl who works the streets for money that we see his internal struggle, even if we are in the dark about what that struggle really is. He is drawn to Teri in a way that seems maternal telling her that she can choose to be whatever she wants to be. There is an almost poetic conversation that the two have in a diner, that they clearly meet at regularly, about the book McCall is reading, “The Old Man And The Sea” where you get a preemptive look at how the story is going to move forward.
For almost the first 30 minutes of the film there is no action, instead we are given a deep and meaningful look at this mysterious man who lives alone and spends his days working at the local Home Depot type store pushing dollies and helping customers, all while we are left feeling that there is something more to this man than meets the eye. There is even attention brought to that fact, if you hadn’t thought it yourself, when a few of his younger co-workers tell him they are taking bets on what he did before he worked at the big box hardware store. He jokes with them saying that he use to be a pip, yes as in Gladys Knight And The Pips and yes he even does the dance. We know there is a huge secret that he is hiding and we patiently wait for it to be carefully revealed.
After finding out that Teri is not only under the control of violent Russian gangsters, but they have also put her in the hospital, we begin to see the other side of McCall that we have waited for. He can’t stand by doing nothing, he has to help her even if that means taking on the Russian Mob or anyone else that get’s in his way.
From this moment on the film brings on not only action, but also a level of intensity that I have not seen in a film since TRAINING DAY. As the story begins to unfold, so do McCall’s secrets. One of my favorite things about this film is that McCall is not some superhero with superhuman strength or a super spy with a hidden arsenal of weapons, he is man with a very specific skill set that will do what it takes to get the job done. As a matter of fact we barely see McCall in a scene with an actual weapon unless he has taken it out of the hands of someone else.
Washington’s performance is flawless he is able to tell us so much about his character by the way he carries himself and his facial expressions without uttering a single word and much like in training day Fuqua uses tight shots of his face to help with the storytelling. He is as explosive as he is calm in scenes that will have you white knuckled in your seats. Chloe who was last seen in IF I STAY shows us versatility in taking on Teri and brings an innocence to not only the role but also the very important issue of human trafficking and sex slavery. She shines a light on what these girls have to do to survive and the dreams and ambitions they may never have the chance to see through.
The film is not only perfectly executed but it is a wonderfully different quest of self-discovery. Through Fuqua’s masterful vision we see the action sequences not only as a viewer but also through the eyes of our hero McCall, which results in an almost beautiful musical masterpiece. The attention to detail is also shown in the way they use the books that McCall reads at the diner as another narrative to the story starting with “The Old Man In The Sea” turning to “Don Quixote” and ending with “Invisible Man”. THE EQUALIZER is a gripping, intense, mysterious and at times moving action film. While some of the violence is extreme and just plain gory it too has a purpose in the storytelling and helps the viewer get a little closer to figuring out the way McCall’s brain works. The casting of each and every character was spot on and the film has more creepy characters than I can count. McCall says
“You got to be who you are in this world no matter what”
and there is nothing like watching him find his sweet spot in the action sequences.
From start to finish the film is incredible and literally at times breathtaking, not from beauty but intensity. I literally found myself gripping my seat and holding my breath. If you were a fan of TRAINING DAY then you do not want to miss the magic Washington and Fuqua bring back to the big screen especially seeing that it can easily be built into a franchise and the films ending suggests just that. It seems Sony agrees as they have already greenlit the sequel. One would hope that they would have Washington reprise his role, but first, he and Antoine will work together again on a remake of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN.
If you have not seen this film already, then make sure and check it out soon and let us know your thoughts. It is definitely a hard R rating due to some of the violence in the film. The film opens with this quote from Mark Twain:
‘The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
watching McCall find out why was absolutely exhilarating.