Denzel Washington plays a hardware store assistant with a murky past, who has a chance encounter with a girl in a diner (Chloe Grace Moretz). They hit it off as friends, but it soon becomes clear she has connections to the Russian mob. When she is hospitalized, Denzel sees red and goes on a rampage to take those motherfuckers down.
The Equalizer has a very simple take on the world - Denzel can and will stop the bad guys, and no good guys get hurt in the process. It’s pure fantasy; the notion that one man with the right skills and the right intentions can stop the entire Russian mafia in their tracks is ridiculous, but it’s all in the way you tell it.
Fuqua clearly had a unique vision for this film. It has a neo-noir aesthetic combined with hyper-realistic visuals and an eye for a great shot. It’s like Nighthawks at the Diner crossed with Watchmen. As with all great Film Noir, shadows, smoke and street lights are almost like an extra character in the film.
The dialogue is clunky, especially when it tries to spoon-feed us the ‘meaning’ behind it all. It’s a shame because the simplicity of the story is appealing, as well as the focus on visuals rather than trying to philosophise for no reason. The final sequence also lets the film down, shifting the tone towards Home Alone more than a gritty thriller.
Still, the great direction and performances make for a surprisingly effective film. Mindless escapism perhaps, but The Equalizer is far from mindless film-making.