Admit it, you’re cut off in traffic and this goes through your mind: “If I had an old beater that guy would be in trouble!” Instead, the perp gets off with a warning: “Why I oughta…”
Revenge is an instinct that we suppress, yet who among us doesn’t cheer when Paul Kersey doles-out a well-deserved measure of street justice in the classic “Death Wish” or its modern equivalent, Jodie Foster’s “The Brave One?”How about “The Exterminator,” in which an otherwise docile guy patrols his sketchy neighborhood with a flamethrower? Comeuppance that was epic.
The vicarious satisfaction that some force of good has his thumb on the Karmic scale is at the core of Oscar-winner Denzel Washington’s new thriller, “The Equalizer.”
Loosely-based on the 1980s television series, Washington works at a Boston home improvement store — ostensibly a second career. But a fresh start from what? We have to guess; as do those around him, like his coworkers and the repentant streetwalker (Chloe Grace Moretz) with whom he makes regular small talk at the diner where he spends his sleepless nights reading the classics over tea he’s brought from home in a carefully-folded napkin and silverware arrangement that he obsesses over.
Moretz, who’s desperately trying to start over herself, disappears one night, and against the advice of his better angel Washington gets involved and sets out to find her. In doing so, he’s swept into the underground world of corrupt police and the Russian mobsters they enable.
That the odds are preposterously insurmountable doesn’t deter him, nor does it dissuade us from buying into it. After all, this is Denzel Washington. The actor brings intensity and credibility to every role, this time re-teaming with “Training Day” director Antoine Fuqua, whose “Olympus Has Fallen” was a breakaway hit.
In less capable hands and with predictable action stars, it’s a premise that could not be taken seriously. But Fuqua manages a gritty and consistent pacing that pulls us in. For his part, Washington works every nuance and every bit of the sparse dialog to add dimension to his enigmatic Robert McCall.
Less can be said of the supporting cast. The mobsters were used-up caricatures and I didn’t buy (ha ha!) Moretz as a conflicted minx-for-hire. Absent was chemistry between the two like what existed between Washington and Dakota Fanning in “Man on Fire.”
Still, a solid drama and one of Denzel’s best performances.