The Equalizer

Oct 2, 2014

As an action hero, Denzel may have no equal.

The Equalizer

Grade: B

Director: Antoine Fuqua (Training day)

Screenplay: Richard Wenk (The Mechanic)

Cast: Denzel Washington (Training Day), Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass)

Rating: R

Runtime: 131 min.

by John DeSando

The great and abiding lesson of American history, particularly the cold war, is that the engine of capitalism, the individual, is mightier than any collective.”  Rand Paul

He’s not the detached Jason Bourne and he’s not the swinging Bond, but Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is tougher than the two.  A modest Home Mart (like Home Depot) employee, he has a past no one knows about. When asked by some young co-workers, he admits to being a “Pip,” as in Gladys. So goes Robert’s quiet wit in the enjoyable and exciting The Equalizer, based on an early TV show.

Although he has a limited sense of humor, his past working for a federal investigative agency was intense and unusual enough that he went onto a protection plan with a new life. While visiting a diner straight out of Edward Hopper (he is a “nighthawk”), he meets very young escort Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz) and spends the rest of the movie revisiting his considerable killing skills to protect her.

So far nothing new except there’s no romance, but many clichés, and stereotypes (especially the Russian mobsters). However, Denzel brings a quiet competence and compassion to Robert’s character while kicking ass every few minutes. Thus, consider the relevance of Rand Paul’s comment introducing this essay.

Interestingly, although the Equalizer doesn’t stray far from the thriller formula, the characters are unique enough to enlist your sympathy, and we all know from our Greek dramas the importance of having sympathy for the hero.

One of the motifs is creative killing, wherein the hero uses the material in the home improvement building, like a corkscrew, to dispatch the Russians. The killing is clean and fun to watch if you enjoy that kind of thing.

Given the heat generated by President Putin over the Ukraine, this smart film is prescient about the resurgence of Cold War situations and attitudes:

“The Cold War isn't thawing; it is burning with a deadly heat. Communism isn't sleeping; it is, as always, plotting, scheming, working, fighting.” Richard Nixon

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at