Opening luridly on a corner diner with an exterior covered in mid-morning darkness, Equalizer’s tonality is immediately desperate. Then it’s not.
Equilizer is a bit everywhere, sloshing between harrowing bloodshed and comically horrific Home Alone hardware store antics. It weaves two dazzling confrontations between prime actors – Washington and rival Marton Csokas – in-between lively dancing jigs as Washington plunges into a 40 hour management gig at a Home Depot knock-off.
It’s an odd movie, but utterly Denzel. That quiet rage. The resentful eyes. A fuming stance. No one does angry better.
This is his role even if there is an undercutting from Csokas who is a beautiful lunatic. Both are killers. Smart ones too. They share a style of cruelty, although their mannerisms are different – Csokas’ Teddy is barbaric, Washington’s casual Robert McCall only acts when the defenseless are harmed.
Maybe Equalizer only needed these two face-to-face in a show of brutal one-upmanship. Instead, Equalizer is victim to filler, including a left field robbery which was destined for deleted scenes elsewhere.
Still, this is a mostlypunctual and often intelligent action piece given what it is. It’s attractively photographed for being so explicit with its bloodletting. In some sense, the grotesque drill kill and a barbed wire hanging somewhat degenerate an unusually adept script from action writer Richard Ward. Characters, from an uncomfortably young Chloe Grace Moretz to brief roles from Melissa Leo and Bill Pullman, have weight. And some of their lines (“He didn’t come for help. He came to ask for permission”) are so outrageously placed in their nostalgic form as to send the movie into its memorably merciless finale completely charged.
Paired again with director Antoine Fuqua, Washington hammers (literally) out calculated and cruel action set pieces, while flipping personas at will. Editing does the rest, resulting in false momentum and sublimely designed fisticuffs. When Equalizer slows and allows mood, it’s pursuing references to literature for a touch of class, simultaneously developing McCall’s background. Consider it some intellectual stimulation for a movie infatuated with the “instant on” villainy of Russian sex exploiters who seem to be the current go-to for such actioners. The difference here is in pre-production with casting and directorial decisions.
With plenty of razzle dazzle in the imagery, Equalizer is broad stunner on disc. All manner of focal tricks are in play, keeping sharpness tightly on the eyes or shifting between subtle dips in softness to elevate emotions. Pleasing lighting schemes keep tremendous fidelity in view, packing in image depth, density, and detail. Shadows are carefully blocked out to maximize visual strength, with an understandable cost to natural delineation.
Post work inserts a level of warmth to the color spectrum, keeping action oddly warm given how many features tend to lessen the impact of saturation as scenes intensify. Flesh tones will occasionally bump themselves into varying levels of orange. Low interior lighting is fond of those hues.
Blu-ray work from Sony means a typically high-end encode with all of the space needed, if creating some flubs with aliasing. Tables in the diner set are bothersome if the camera pans in any direction. A few other instances are too minor to cause trouble. Exteriors of Boston are blistering in their sharpness despite the lines. Only a few rapid fire, clearly stock shots of Moscow dim the fun. It’s otherwise a technical beaut.
Robert McCall carries an internal “on” switch which ignites this fearsome DTS-HD mix. When needed, camera work slows and booming LFE takes over for a slow dramatic crawl into the next round of brawling. It’s intense, and marks the first chance this disc has to show off after pleasingly using softened rains and city ambiance prior.
For what it is a relatively small war, Equalizer carries a number of eventful sonic moments. Of note is a slow motion oil line explosion which carries for some 30 seconds, with the subwoofer never settling down while rattling any surroundings. It’s rare to feel such a sustained blast.
If Equalizer holds back at all, it is only to satisfy a gratuitous finish. The metallic ping of bullets fired under a tin home improvement store roof and into steel shelving is enormous. Directionality then adds to the narrative – shots ping targets between all four rears with a varying sense of height to establish the growing panic of those who challenged McCall. Each round is inconsistently placed to indicate their frustrated inaccuracy. All is further highlighted with scattering debris, especially glass during some hand-to-hand warfare. This track is all fun once into the center of the fighting.
Inside the Equalizer begins a routine slate of bonuses, so inconsequential as to be near worthless. This eight minute dud exists for EPK purposes, and really, so do the rest. A Different Kind of Superhero gives Washington’s role a workover, Children of the Night details Moretz, Equalizer Vision gives Fuqua time, and One Man Army spills into choreography. Only the latter has substance and these are all under seven minutes.
The best bit here is a fake commercial for the fake store Home Mart which details McCall’s killing aptitude while selling power tools.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.