Blu-ray Review: The Equalizer

Director Antoine Fuqua has been responsible for some of the grittiest action films of the past decade (including Olympus Has Fallen to one of my personal favourite war flicks in Tears of the Sun). His latest film, The Equalizer, once again teams him up with Denzel Washington, his leading man from the critically acclaimed Training Day. This time, however, Washington is the good guy, and it’s those who break the law that need to watch out.

The film is based off the television drama from the mid-’80s, though it’s definitely been taken up a notch in terms of how harsh the justice Robert McCall (Washington) serves up. McCall is a man with a mysterious past who is now content to live a peaceful quiet life. He works 40 hours a week at a hardware depot store, and spends his nights in a diner reading. While he lives a life of solitude, he does open himself up to friendships at work and the diner. It’s his friendship with Aline (Chloe Grace Moretz) — a prostitute who also finds solace in the quiet diner during the night — that once again leads him into the life that he thought it’d finally put behind him.

When Aline is assaulted by her pimp, McCall takes it upon himself to visit her employer. Needless to say, that altercation doesn’t go exactly as planned and McCall quickly finds himself mixed up in a war with Russian mob boss Vladimir Pushkin. Pushkin sends his most trusted enforcer, Teddy (Marton Csokas), to clean up the mess no matter what the cost.

While the plot isn’t something that stands out as wholly original, is there ever a time when you don’t want to watch a mysterious man hand out vigilante justice on any and all bad guys in incredibly vicious ways? Did I mention most of this brutally stylized payback is also delivered in slow motion? Because it is and it’s awesome. Fuqua is not one to shy away from getting his sets bloody, as anyone familiar with his past works should know. The Equalizer is no exception, as McCall’s weapons of choice range from corkscrews and barbed wire, right down to the words on a written page. Needless to say, if you get squeamish from the site of blood, you may want to shy away from this well deserved R-rated flick.

I never did see the original show, so I can’t give a comparison for fans of that series. What I can say is that the film does a good job of setting up the story, really giving the viewer a look inside the life of McCall — or somewhat lack thereof. He’s a good man, and while he aims to live a quiet existence, he also tries to help those around him whenever possible. This makes his sudden jump back into the man that he was all the more intense, and makes everyone want to know more about his past and where it is he came from.

Washington once again proves that he’s one of the best in Hollywood, and he also continues to show that, even at his more established age, he’s one of the few actors who easily has a lot more in the tank when it comes to films like this. One thing that really makes or breaks a film like this is the antagonist. As cool as it is to see the good guy fighting for what’s right, it’s even better when there’s a bad guy you just can’t wait for him to cross paths with. Csokas delivers the goods as Teddy, as he’s someone audiences will love to hate. His performance comes off as visceral and sociopathic, and it’s the perfect counter to all Washington’s character believes in.

As Liam Neeson’s reinvigorated career has proven, older actors going up against all odds in the action genre is sort of a big thing right now. While certain plot points are predictable, and there’s definitely more than one cliché to be found, The Equalizer is loads of fun. With the superb work of Washington and the yin to his yang, Csokas on the acting front, as well as the vigorous direction of Fuqua behind the camera, this one is a can’t miss for action aficionados.

The video transfer for the Blu-ray is beautiful, with deep, rich blacks throughout most of the darker scenes in the film, as well as vibrant colours filling out the rest. It’s a sharp picture that’s clear throughout, and a gorgeous HD transfer overall. The sound mix is also top notch, with great surround sound and a wonderful transfer overall. Both areas deliver flawlessly and are what you wish all Blu-rays came as.

On the extras front there’s a decent amount of featurettes:

Vengeance Mode – This is a special viewing mode that you’ll have the option to watch when first hitting “Play” at the start of the disc. If you watch the film through this mode then the movie will be interrupted by Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington, who will delve into how the scene was made, or various other tidbits that may pop up throughout. Definitely worth watching, though I’d recommend doing so the second time around for obvious reasons.

Inside The Equalizer This featurette is just under eight minutes in length and talks about Robert McCall as a character, as well as bringing the television show to the big screen.

Denzel Washington: A Different Kind of Superhero – This featurette is just under seven minutes in length and focuses on the unique characteristics that Washington brought to McCall, and how he embodied the character, and adapted him throughout the filming process.

Equalizer Vision: Antoine Fuqua – This featurette is just over seven minutes in length and talks about Fuqua’s stylistic approach to directing, as well as his vision for the film and the McCall character.

Children of the Night – This piece is just over five minutes in length and focuses on Chloe Grace Moretz, and her preparation to play her character in the film.

One Man Army: Training and Fighting – This featurette is just under seven minutes in length and focuses on the choreography in the film, which is quite abundant. It also touches on Washington, and the stunts he pulls off himself, as well as McCall’s unique tools of the trade when exacting vengeance.

Home Mart: Taking Care of Business – This featurette is a quick one, that plays like a store promo, with McCall doing what he does best.

Columbia Pictures Presents The Equalizer. Directed by: Antoine Fuqua. Written by: Richard Wenk. Starring: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz, Haley Bennett, David Harbour, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo. Running time: 132 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released: December 30, 2014.

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