Saturday, December 20, 2014

Film Review: The Equalizer (2014)

Copyright: Columbia Pictures
It’s very enticing to examine the newest Antoine Fuqua’s film as a pseudo-religious tale. In it, a character called Robert McCall is a deity right from the Old Testament. He is never uncertain about what is wrong and what is right, and is prepared to commit acts of unabated violence to help those who are in need. Watching The Equalizer, I saw only two modes of Robert’s existence – quiet nothingness in which he is practically an invisible older worker in a Home Depot kind of place, and the quiet rage setting, in which Robert becomes a demon of death who kills to solve problems.

In this setting, Denzel Washington, who plays Robert, reaches once more for a character he constructed a decade ago. This person is an ordinary guy who is in fact a real world superhero with unshakable faith in his ideals.

Even when Fuqua presents Robert in a state that might be near to something like doubt, just a moment or two later, we see him suffocating cops or destroying pipelines while he calmly walks away from the nuclear-like explosion. Because, you know, tough guys don’t look at explosions, especially if they are a murdering psychopath. Although Washington’s acting is strong, his physical demeanor and loosening facial skin tell more about a tired man who only wants to complete another gig where he uses interiors of cars to torture people.

While he developed this middle-age man’s revenge fantasy and theological dissertation, Fuqua quickly established that Robert is a righteous angel living among the minority of oppressors and a large majority of sheepish and oppressed. He is infallible, and all-powerful, meaning he can kill professional criminals that are used to violence using only his bare hands. If needs be, he will go to the ends of the Earth and kill people there. He is a messiah who returned to his strayed flock only to push shot glasses in their eyes and shoot them with nail guns.

This is presented in stunning cinematography, which uses cameras that shoot in super slow-motion. Fuqua really focused on frame setup and photography, especially in the Russian owned nightclubs and bars which combine black and gold, and are filled with gangland tattoo bearing thugs. The Equalizer looks really nice, but also somehow managed to present a very disturbing story.

Apart from the actress Chloe Grace Moretz playing a Russian call girl in distress whose story manages to activate the murderous Robert, The Equalizer shares another thing with the horror remake Carrie from 2013, and that’s the notion of revenge. But, unlike Carrie, Robert isn’t providing personal vengeance, but is acting like a proxy, a man who kills for others. In this Equalizer review I have to conclude that I don’t have the problem with the delivery of a character like that, but the conception that this man is something good or positive, and a person who somehow represents righteous values.

Equalizer Denzel Washington as Robert is something similar to the character of the insidious spirit in his older movie Fallen. Like that spirit, he is ever-present, powerful and never completely explained. He is Louis from Nightcrawler, but holding a gun instead of a camera, believing he is helping people. This film finds him in a position where he desires to help those who are oppressed, but what is stopping him from turning to the other side and becoming a cereal eating serial killer?