ComplexCon returns to Long Beach Nov. 6 - 7 with hosts J. Balvin and Kristen Noel Crawley, performances by A$AP Rocky and Turnstile, and more shopping and drops.

Secure your spot while tickets last!

The Equalizer

0 2 out of 5 stars
Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Melissa Leo, Bill Pullman
Richard Wenk
Duration: 131 mins
Release Date:
September 26, 2014
MPAA Rating:

Denzel Washington and director Antoine Fuqua have reunited for a second film, their first collaboration since Training Day. But don't get excited—the movie isn't good.

The only surprising thing about The Equalizer, an adaptation—in title, at least—of an action TV series that ran on CBS in the late '80s, is the level of boredom it achieves. Washington plays Robert McCall, who, in a miscalculation so total it hurts my heart to even think about it, never not once refers to himself as "The Equalizer," despite being asked over and over again by so many dying foes, "Who are you?!" This is the movie's problem in a nutshell: It doesn't inspire enough smiles. Denzel Washington has a great smile, and aside from some so-so jokes about his mysterious past singing back-up for Gladys Knight, the film has no use for humor. It is deadly serious in its pursuit of vengeance.

You see the story coming before it happens: McCall can't sleep, so he visits an 24-hour diner where he builds a rapport with a young prostitute named Teri, played by Chloë Grace Moretz. Over/under on the number of times they'll talk before she arrives with a bruise on her face like a smashed plum? It doesn't matter. Of course that's what happens and then McCall finds her important pimp and his cronies, kills them, and starts sleeping again. Only justice can rock his cradle just right. When the Russian mob sends in a super-evil fixer to get to the bottom of the slaughter, McCall is presented with more opportunities to get a good night's rest, and we, the audience, get to sit around and wait for another woman to be injured by a man. McCall is back in business.

As he kills and tortures (for the record, the latter instance doesn't surpass the awesome brutality of the car torture scene in Man on Fire), you may find yourself wondering if he'll ever falter on his mission. It's a spoiler to tell you that he doesn't, but it's a necessary spoiler because it explains why The Equalizer is so inert. The movie is a delivery system for the thrill of evil punished, and it doesn't waste time on things like process or technique or danger. There's no suspense. He's a terminator. Oh, McCall finds out that a certain shipping center is important to the mob? Cut to McCall walking away from the shipping center as it explodes into flames behind him. You're main-lining clichés at this point, and the product's been stepped on.

Still, it's satisfying to watch a black man operate outside the law and government to destroy (white) sex trafficking, (white) organized crime, and (white) police corruption. In this way, The Equalizer doesn't feel as right wing as Dirty Harry or even Fuqua's last miscalculation, Olympus Has Fallen. But that reaction probably has more to do with the tragedy of our current cultural moment. If The Equalizer carries any power ten years from now, we'll know we're still fucking up.

Ross Scarano is a deputy editor at Complex. He tweets here.