3 Stars – Troubling
When an action film is based on revenge the moral message is troubling. Resembling the 1970’s Kung Fu television series where the peaceful Buddhist monk would finally seek savage revenge against those who clearly deserved it, in The Equalizer it is peaceful Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) who does so. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, who also directed Denzel in Training Day, the story is based on a 1980’s TV series by the same name developed by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim, but brought to the screen by Richard Wenk.
A man of quiet strength grieving the loss of his wife and keeping a promise he made to her to change his life, McCall is a warehouse worker at Home Depot. But he has not found peace and is plagued with sleepless nights and obsessive compulsions. Frequenting an all-night diner as an insomniac ritual, McCall cannot help but have compassion for Teri (Choe Grace Moretz). An abused Russian immigrant being forced into prostitution by Slavi (David Meunier), the cruel head of the Russian crime organization in Boston, Teri has no power to protect herself or change her life. Thus “The Equalizer” enters the equation.
We won’t spoil the action or the way such a single act of compassion expands into multiple levels of justice, except to note that the villain in the tale is equal to the skill of McCall. Teddy (Marton Csokas) is the psychopathic problem solver for the head of the Russian mafia and formulaic final battle between Teddy and McCall is unique in action films.
The violence in The Equalizer is deserving of its R-rating so this is not a film for the sensitive viewer. It is also true that the morality being presented is complex and fits within the closed system of an action film but not within life beyond the theatre. But it is a film presenting how one person could stop evil for a moment, even if other will quickly step into the void the violence created. It is only by finding ways to change the human heart that crime and violence will ever end.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
- The use of violence to end violence has an attraction to our sense of justice and thus such films showing people getting what they deserve has an attraction. Do you believe such films increase the justice in the world or decrease it? Why do you answer as you do?
- Similar to such films as Taken, the atrocity of human trafficking is valuable cinema to sensitize us to what is happening in our world. What are you doing to help end this trafficking?
- Have you ever experienced a person as evil as those portrayed in the film? How did you protect yourself from them?