Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
The Equalizer

Title: The Equalizer

Cool, Does Edward Woodward Have A Cameo? Woodward died in 2009, you insensitive clod.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three Breaker Morants out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Mysterious loner likes teenage hookers, dislikes Russians.

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Tagline: "What do you see when you look at me?"

Better Tagline: "Hold still, there's something on your neck."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is enjoying a second career of sorts at his local big box hardware store. Well, maybe "enjoying" is the wrong word. Robert lives an ascetic's life, though not for any apparent spiritual reason. Plagued with insomnia, he often retreats to the local diner to drink tea and read into the wee hours. This is where he occasionally runs into "Arina," real name Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a teenage hooker with aspirations of pop stardom. But when Teri's Russian pimp (again with the Russians) puts her in the hospital, he soon finds out Robert has a very particular set of skills, etc etc.

"Critical" Analysis: America is getting older, in case you were wondering. All the evidence you need is in your NFL Sunday commercials, which were once the exclusive advertising domain of "Tastes great, less filling" and "Mean Joe" Greene flinging sweaty laundry at children. These days, ads for watery beer and whatever product Peyton Manning is currently hawking have to vie for attention with Swiffer (allows old people to clean without breaking a hip) and Wells Fargo's retirement plan.

And then there are the medicines. Whether you suffer from serious conditions like depression or asthma, or 'non-critical-but-they-affect-old-men-so-we'll-act-like-they're-worse-than-cancer' maladies like impotence (sorry, "ED") or age-related lethargy (sorry, "Low T"), there's a medicine -- and a multi-million dollar pharmaceutical marketing campaign behind it -- for you.

With the first waves of Baby Boomers going not so gently into retirement, can it really be all that surprising that today's action stars are increasingly of a similar vintage? I'm not talking about those superhero whippersnappers (though Iron Man's Robert Downey, Jr. turns 50 next year), but about guys like Liam Neeson (62), Sylvester Stallone (68), and Washington (59).

If you were unaware that this movie is based on a 30-year old TV series featuring a freelance, ex-spook ass-kicker, you might be fooled into thinking The Equalizer was about the hesitant friendship between a world-weary near-retiree and a young prostitute. If it was in black and white with more smoking, act one could be a Jim Jarmusch film.

Alas, it's not to be. It's a shame, really, because Washington and Moretz have an easy rapport that's surprisingly enjoyable to watch. But then Teri gets in trouble, it isn't long before McCall unleashes the beast within and delivers some immensely satisfying mayhem, abetted by an almost superhuman eye for detail and an obsessive-compulsive need to waste as little time as possible dirtying his hands.

Bu-bu-bu-but wait it's get worse. If they'd just stopped there, if screenwriter Richard Wenk (The Mechanic, 16 Blocks) and director Antoine Fuqua -- who's been down this road before with Washington -- had kept the action minimalist, accentuating McCall's experience and guile along with his hand-to-hand skills, The Equalizer would've been a great movie. Unfortunately, everyone involved links hands and walks off the cliff into absurdity about halfway through.

When I was a kid, I fell asleep in a movie theater watching Where the Red Fern Grows. In my defense, I'd seen it before and that was probably my mind shutting down before it was once again exposed to the horrors to come. When I woke up, they were playing Hot Lead and Cold Feet, that Disney comedy/western with Don Knotts. I don't remember nodding off during The Equalizer, but the sense of disorientation, between the thoughtfully paced, character building first half and the over-the-top hyperviolence of the second, was disturbingly familiar.

The Equalizer is in theaters today. Between this and the Taken movies, organized crime in Eastern Europe should be wiped out by 2018.


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