Updated: November 21, 2014 8:45:53 pm
An overweight Boston security guard vs a Muscovite sociopath, an all-American home mart vs an all-Russian mafia or, if you will, a retired CIA special agent who carries own tea bags to street-corner diners vs a wine-swilling goon in cordon bleu restaurants. Fuqua clearly spares no effort trying to convince you what’s at stake here.
His aspiration may be larger than his ambition but, for the most part, The Equalizer is an entertaining thriller precisely because of the contradictions of its lead antagonists. Washington is the old Agency hand Bob; Csokas the handyman of a quintessential Russian oligarch who calls himself Teddy or Nikolai depending on the company he is in. Bob wears simple, everyday shirts tucked into shapeless trousers and jeans, fashions domestic tools into weapons, and commutes by bus or tube even when rushing for rescue. Teddy only wears sharp suits even when out on murder sprees, brandishes large guns and travels in style. Bob reads books, Teddy sports tattoos. Bob operates alone, Teddy has a troupe.
However, when they take on opponents, both Bob and Teddy are unsparing. As is Fuqua, who appears to derive particular pleasure from cork screws and like objects being dug into vulnerable flesh. Want to see one such screw struck into the neck and emerging from the middle of the mouth? This is that film.
You would be better served though keeping your eyes on Washington, who again lends his role such base conviction that you are willing to forgive and forget his character’s cliches. He is well served by Csokas, who is delicious and apt as the mafia guy with compunctions few enough to make us hate but not ignore him. That they make such well-matched opponents is what puts The Equalizer several notches above films of its ilk.
Adapted from a television series character, Bob is a widower who dropped out of the CIA after pretending to have died. His goal in life now is to finish 100 books that were on his wife’s must-read list. He is on the 91st — The Invisible Man — when he strikes a conversation with a fellow diner at the local 24×7 eatery he frequents at odd hours of the night. She is a child prostitute (Moretz), run by some very bad Russian pimps. When she is beaten almost to death for hitting an abusive client back, Bob decides to pay her torturers a visit, thus bringing him into conflict with Teddy.
This is far from Fuqua’s own Training Day and Washington’s other impressive body of work, but The Equalizer is a good reminder of what we may be missing.
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