In The Equalizer, Denzel Washington plays McCall, a man who believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when McCall meets Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can’t stand idly by – he has to help her. Armed with hidden skills that allow him to serve vengeance against anyone who would brutalize the helpless, McCall comes out of his self-imposed retirement and finds his desire for justice reawakened. If someone has a problem, if the odds are stacked against them, if they have nowhere else to turn, McCall will help. He is The Equalizer.
“The Equalizer” is especially noteworthy since it pairs Washington again with Antoine Fuqua, the director behind his Oscar-winning role in 2001’s “Training Day.” But don’t expect any “King Kong ain’t got shit on me” histrionics in this caper. Washington’s Robert McCall exudes a serene calm while living a low-profile Spartan-like solo existence as a clerk at a Boston area Home Depot-like emporium.
While his co-workers treat him with respect and count on him for advice, they also wonder about his past. He jokes with a couple young guys that he used to be a Pip—meaning one of Gladys Knight’s backup singer/dancers—and they almost buy it as Washington pulls off some smooth old-school moves.
His McCall was a pip all right. The kind of pip who can pre-visualize a potentially explosive situation with brilliant Sherlock-level precision, and dispatch would-be assailants with swift and often grisly violence. He also employs a watch timer to judge how long it will take to wipe out a threat. Usually, it is within seconds.
We sense he hasn’t had to use these special skills for a while. Instead, this apparent insomniac spends his nights sipping tea while reading classics (including “The Old Man and the Sea,” “Don Quixote” and “The Invisible Man,” titles that all comment on his current status) in an all-night diner that Edward Hopper would appreciate. But he soon will be called upon to pull his fighting skills out of hibernation after meeting a sweet-but-wounded teen call girl who hangs out at the restaurant between clients.