Director Antoine Fuqua re-unites with Denzel Washington for a clinical reboot of The Equalizer.
With thanks to the folk at Den Of Geek and Sony Pictures UK, I had the opportunity to spend an evening in the screening room of London’s Mayfair Hotel for an early viewing of The Equalizer, starring Denzel Washington, followed by a Q&A with director Antoine Fuqua.
My recollection of the Equalizer television series that starred British actor Edward Woodward are vague. I remember enjoying the show and imagery remains vividly embedded in my mind, as do the methods with which the central character Robert McCall went about helping those unable to help themselves against undesirables extortionists and criminals. I asked Antoine Fuqua how much of the television series he’d taken on-board and had it influenced any areas of the film?
Similar to my experiences he revealed that as a kid he was aware of the show and his parents and grandparents would enjoy watching it, but what stayed with him was the core principle behind the show. Robert McCall stood up for the common man and woman against the monsters of the underworld and it was that strong message Fuqua really wanted to bring into the film whilst creating a completely new vision and origin story for Robert McCall. The director, famous for tense action thrillers like Training Day and Olympus Has Fallen, is honest when he says that he didn’t watch any of the television shows before shooting began on his vision of The Equalizer.
Fuqua was about to begin work on his forthcoming movie Southpaw when Denzel Washington got in touch with the Equalizer script. He explains that if Denzel thinks you’re perfect for a movie you really should take it seriously. The director contacted Harvey Weinstein immediately to push production back on his imminent project. Weinstein proved accommodating an encouraging and work began on the movie I got to see this evening.
Director Antoine Fuqua presents the origin story of Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) a considerate man with a mysterious past he believed he’d left behind. A considerate man working a regular job, popular with is colleagues, he lives a solitary life, but it’s clear there’s more to him. He is meticulous in his daily routine and unable to sleep at night.
Taking his usual spot in an all-night diner he befriends a young girl, Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a sex worker under the control of violent Russian gangsters. When the girl is hospitalised McCall is unable to sit by and his past as a clinical killing machine resurfaces. The repercussions of his vengeance escalate to the very top of the Russian mafia placing him firmly in the firing line.
Whilst the plot to The Equalizer is fairly basic the strength of the film lies in two key components that are delivered with acute accuracy. This is an R rated movie and rightly so. The calm Robert McCall is ever aware of his surroundings and clinically counters threats with lethal force. You will witness graphic violence and methods of murder unique to this film. Antoine Fuqua says of the preparation process that his advisors included men who could really carry out all of these acts, a scary prospect. The violence is punctuated by clever use of sound effects and music which work in unison with the visual aspect rather than as a post-production after-thought.
To counter the clinical killing presented on screen the film is peppered with dry humour with each punchline seemingly heightened as relief from the strong visuals presented on screen.
Denzel Washington is wonderful in the role and presents the dry and calm character perfectly. Some of the Russian mafia guys verge on cliched performances and although in constant danger you never fear for the safety of Robert McCall. We all love to see the hero coming out on top, but usually there must be a period of concern or doubt ad to whether he’s going to make it through a given situation. It’s there but barely for a minute.
What the film does spectacularly well is keep the audience engaged and entertained through a great lead performance coupled with wonderful imagery and sound. A worthy film to see in exchange for your cinema ticket money.
The Equalizer is in cinemas from the 26th of September.