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REVIEW — “The Equalizer”

Based on the 1980’s TV series, “The Equalizer” is big on thrills but woefully low on originality.

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Denzel Washington plays Robert McCall, another version of the same badass character he has played in a number of movies.  McCall is a friendly, yet lonely man, who lives a very simple life, but hides a mysterious past. (Sound familiar?)  He befriends a young prostitute with a heart of gold Chloë Grace Moretz, who dreams of trading her current life to become a singer.  Unfortunately, with most stories of this nature, it takes a woman being sent to the hospital for McCall to return to his ultra-violent vigilante roots.

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As stories and characters go, “The Equalizer” is nothing new.  The story has been told a hundred times before.  What makes this one different is how effective it is as an action thriller.  Sure, it takes a while to get going, establishing the characters and their routines, but once the action starts the audience is engaged until the final moments.  All of the performances are great, even if the characters are a bit shallow.  We even get a few short scenes with one of our favorite presidential actors.  Marton Csokas has fun playing the psychopathic villain Teddy.  He chews the scenery and every line of dialogue with a sinister gleam in his eye that would make even the most hardened Bond villains uneasy.

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Even laden down with such cliches and stereotypes it still manages to be very entertaining.  Denzel is always a pleasure to watch on screen, especially when he is kicking ass and taking names.  All of the fight scenes are visually stimulating, even if they did knock off Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlockian fighting style.  And how many times have you walked through Home Depot and thought, “This would be a great place to have an epic battle?”  Well now you can finally see it on screen.  While parts of it play like a lethal remake of Home Alone (complete with red-hot door knob!) it’s incredibly satisfying seeing the different ways McCall dispatches the bad guys.  The only downside is as soon as you see the “HomeMart” you know they are going to use the tired Nailgun Gag.  Please Hollywood, give it a rest and find a new home improvement gimmick.

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Rating a movie like this is difficult.  It has fleeting moments of complete nonsense, but the rest of the time it has your complete attention.  What smooth line will he deliver next?  How is he going to deal with this next threat?  Compared to a number of other similar movies, this one is more engaging, better looking, and ultimately more fun, as long as you can forgive it’s momentary silliness.

(Note: There is absolutely no reason to see this in Imax.  In fact, hearing a blender in Imax sound during the first minute is especially grating.)

4 out of 5 Stars (If you check your brain at the door)

 

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