Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Equalizer (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Equalizer

Denzel Washington has been an excellent vigilante and/or sour cop delivering plenty of ice and sarcasm in many films from "Man on Fire" to "2 Guns". Under the direction of Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), Washington holds steady and does not disappoint.

"The Equalizer" is based on the vengeful action 80s tv series, created by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim, which starred   Edward Woodward.

In this version, Washington is Robert McCall, a pleasant yet compulsively methodical and enigmatic man by turns. McCall works at a Home Depot type store and when his co-workers ask him about his past, he is entertainingly evasive, telling them he used to work for Gladys Knight as one of the Pips.

McCall frequently goes to a Boston diner which is right out of an Edward Hopper painting. He sits by himself and reads works of classic literature. McCall is one man content with himself; he is an incurable insomniac but not a tormented one.

During one night at a lonely literary table, he strikes up some banter with a troubled young woman, Alina (Chloe Grace-Moretz),  an aspiring singer who is working as an escort for the Russian mafia.

McCall witnesses a charmless and grunting thug horribly abusing her.

The next night he goes to the mafia headquarters and, as you can guess, blood is spilled.

This is essentially a good guy / bad guy avenger film, but Denzel Washington is such a presence and his gallows humor in exacting justice goes a long way.

Director Fuqua gives this film a visceral and tense atmosphere, creating an almost vegan nightmare of animal blood, meat, leather and satanic tattoos where porcine men slobber over flesh both living and recently dead.

We know McCall is a good guy per se, but he isn't all that nice. The language of the sociopath has been assimilated within him to be used as a measure of justice so to speak and the film brings this out well.

We are in the realm of something like The Batman, sans cowl and Washington keeps us in thrills as he coolly weighs the scales that were not weighed for him.

There are touches of grim comedy as McCall selects a hardware store hammer while at work and calmly metes out some just desserts. He can use anything at hand from the toxic to the trifling. One gets a thrill in watching this grue-measuring MacGyver.

When McCall returns some blood spattered sunglasses of a restroom-goer to the table under the Lucifer gaze of Nicolai (Marton Csokas), you know the Ray Ban man won't be returning to his meal.

These baddies are so pompous, sadistic and arrogant that the apprehensive pleasure is in wondering just how far McCall will go. In one scene Andri ( Vitaliy Shtabnoy) is so self-assured and callous that McCall promptly ties Andri to the floor, giving away a sizable portion of his cash to his workers.

But don't say McCall is Santa Claus to the victimized, for his gifts are bloody.

Gore is often present and it is gratuitously given. There are punctured, spouting, gurgling throats  and eviscerated guts of all varieties and combinations.

Slippery floors run red.

Yet the one-upmanship of McCall and his horrific hijinks in dispensing justice seems to ameliorate our aversion to such pulp.

Like an odd, blue collar James Bond, there is enough wistful haunt and kinky jabs in Denzel Washington's  performance to make "The Equalizer," a  Creepshow brand of karma that remains wickedly watchable and nearly camp.

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