The Equalizer: Season One – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com
Back in the ‘80s before Mayor Rudy and Disney cleaned up Times Square, Manhattan was a dangerous island. New Yorkers lived in constant fear of murders, rapist, creeps and Darryl Strawberry. Their only chance to feel safe was found in the personal sections of The Village Voice. A simple ad read, “Got a Problem? Odds Against You? Call the Equalizer.” It included a phone number. Who picked up the other end? Robert McCall (Edward Woodward), a recently retired government agent that had decided to help ordinary folks after screwing up the world as a professional spook.

“The Pilot” is a busy episode. McCall’s final mission melts down and he wants out. His mysterious espionage agency isn’t thrilled that he’s retiring. He knows too much. McCall wants to know his son, but he’s not ready to be a helicopter parent. He sets up his equalizing business. He charges a nominal price as his fee for extensive services. With such low prices, he gets immediate business from frightened citizens on tight budgets. A single mother is being stalked by the neighborhood freak. A computer geek finds himself being endangered by his evil supervisors. McCall realizes that for his new occupation to flourish, he needs to maintain his former connections. His old boss, only referred to as Control (Robert Lansing), trades favors and information. You’re never completely out of the spy game until you’re planted. This first episode sets the level of violence and excitement at a high pitch.

A florist becomes a marked man when a building’s doorman puts his address on the wrong envelope in “Dead Drop.” The florist needs McCall to save him from being “retired” by an evil spy ring that thinks he’s cloak and dagger. McCall’s group of old agency operatives are brought in to crack the spy ring. Part of the crew is Mark Margolis of Ed, Pi and Oz fame. For fans of Nip/Tuck, Roma Maffia plays a young party girl. Flowers also play a part in “Unnatural Causes” with a serial killer that uses orchids as a calling card on his victims. Besides tracking a killer, McCall has to save an aspiring actress from her pimp.

“Unpunished Crimes” has an inventor (Dan Hedaya) discover that his revolutionary fuel injector has been ripped off by a large corporation. The evil suits decide not to deal with him. They blow up his property in an attempt to destroy all evidence of their intellectual theft. The inventor’s son dials the phone so McCall can inject the fuel of vengeance up their asses. Jon Polito is extra creepy when he plays a mind game on the corporation’s head. This episode lives up to the violent reputation of the series.

McCall was Barnaby Jones with a Miami Vice sizzle. The Police’s Stewart Copeland provided an intimidating percussive score that pumping up the tension that equaled Jan Hammer’s work on Vice. The mid-80s was the era of big, dumb action heroes dominated by Sly, Arnold and Chuck. The Equalizer was a way for senior citizens to declare that they had a peer who could compete in the butt kicking Olympics. The early bird crowd had a violent hero with manners and guile. The Equalizer: Season One reminds us that young, unshaven cops in pastels weren’t the only ones causing mayhem in prime time.

The Episodes:

“Pilot: The Equalizer,” “China Rain,” “The Defector,” “The Lock Box,” “Lady Cop,” “The Confirmation Day,” “The Children’s Song,” “The Distant Fire,” “Mama’s Boy,” “Bump and Run,” “Desperately,” “Reign of Terror,” “Back Home,” “Out of the Past,” “Dead Drop,” “Wash Up,” “Torn,” “Unnatural Causes,” “Breakpoint,” “No Conscience,” “Unpunished Crimes” and “Pretenders.”

The DVD:

The five DVDs are in a tri-fold digipack inside a sleeve. The last two panels have the final four DVDs stagger stacked. The episode summaries are on the outside of the digipack. This is the conventional Universal packaging.

The picture is 1.33:1. The transfers are rather clean. The grain is pretty thick at times because of the exterior location work around New York City and plenty of night shots.

The soundtrack is English Dolby Digital Mono. “The Pilot” features a commentary track from creator Michael Sloan. In rap terms, Sloan does not rock the mic. There’s a lot of silence. He gives a few good details about the casting of Woodward and shooting in Manhattan. But you almost forget you’re on the commentary track. The subtitles are in English.

Bonus Episode From Season 2: “Beyond Control” has Control calling The Equalizer’s hotline.

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Universal Home Entertainment presents The Equalizer: Season One. Starring Edward Woodward. Running time: 1063 minutes. Released on DVD: February 12, 2008. Available at Amazon.com