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Cinema Signal: Not quite a green light but has elements of strong appeal for a limited audience. MOBILE version |
. "The Equalizer"

With reminders of many another lone seeker of justice making things noisy and violent in movies, (the overworked Charles Bronson in his "Death Wish" series, say) "The Equalizer" comes with it's own wrinkles in the time-honored genre -- not the least of which is actor Denzel Washington's cool presence as the man at the center.

Robert McCall (Washington, "Flight") is introduced as a man of little action and an inviolably structured existence: getting up in the morning, going to work as a security guard at a Boston Home Mart ("Just Build It"), chowing down at the local diner, studiously reading a book. A solitary man. Avoiding trouble or attention in any form. And, then, he meets Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz, "Let Me In").

She shows up one day for a snack, sitting at the counter a few yards away from McCall. She's a kid, a beautiful one, outfitted to make a man notice. Hooker's garb. And, as McCall will soon find out, she belongs to the Russian traffickers and its prime pimp and mob boss Slavi (David Meunier), a degenerate hustler in sex for hire and principal in a smuggling operation.

In screenwriter Richard Wenk's adaptation of TV writer Michael Sloan's series, this is all a set up to get McCall's vigilante blood to start boiling again and prompting the perfect citizen recluse back into action against evil enemies.

There's nothing like the tactical advantage of making your enemy underestimate you. So McCall tries it the easy way. He takes an envelope with $9,800 in cash (presumably his life's savings?) into a meeting with the mobster, offering the entire sum to buy Teri's freedom. Slavi and his goons almost die laughing. But, the laughter dies down pretty quickly, as do the goons.

Bring in the A team. Teddy (Marton Csokas), is sent in by overlord Vladimir Pushkin (Vladimir Kulich) with a fresh set of goons to alleviate the headache McCall now represents and who turns out to be a close combat menace we haven't seen since Jason Bourne. I particularly like the dispatch with which he disarms any tough guy who points a handgun at him. Speed, agility, no nonsense.

By now we see that the old pace was pure deception, a mask for a man who is a retired black ops government operative tired of killing.

But, there's a limit for a man with McCall's training and a magician's economy of motion. And if anyone's going to call a halt to the gross mistreatment of a girl like Teri it's this fiercely skilled corrector of wrongs. The equalizer.

Directing Washington is Antoine Fuqua with whom he made "Training Day," a standout work in the Washington canon.

Washington demonstrates once again the role-proof gift he has to connect sympathetically to the audience. He long ago has proven the uncanny appeal he can invest in any character he portrays.

Casting of the villains is good enough to provide the adequacy of dramatic muscle to the presumptions of the movie, along with dynamic choreography which borrows from Asian chopsocky notions of human speed -- as designed on the story board and the editing table.

It's nice to see Moretz's alluring charms in a big girl's role but here she's little more than the medium through whom the antagonists come together for violent confrontations. The outcome's not much in doubt but Washington's involvement and the script's insistence on providing him back-story character helps on the fulfillment side for genre and Washington fans.

No small part of the fun is the dynamic choreography which borrows heavily from Asian chopsocky and is similarly outside the realm of reality. But, you gotta go where you need to go for thrills and profitability for all concerned.

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                                                                              ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Denzel Washington is Robert McCall
Waiting to do a little equalizing.

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