Robert McCall is a man set in his ways. Dealing with an obvious case of OCD, McCall (Washington, never better) spends his days working at the local home improvement store. The rest of his time is spent either in his apartment, where he constantly times himself while washing dishes or getting dressed or at a local diner, where he arranges the silverware “just right” and brings his own tea. A quiet man, McCall offers advice and help to those that ask. “Progress, not perfection” is his motto. Just your regular, ordinary guy, right?
Sharply directed, and bloody as hell, “The Equalizer” returns Washington to “Training Day” territory, which makes sense since both films share the same director. Robert is a man with a past, one that he’s tried to keep hidden. But when one of his few friends (Moretz, a high class prostitute with dreams of becoming a singer) is hurt he becomes a one man wrecking crew, taking down pretty much every bad guy in Boston in the most violent ways. But the violence is not gratuitous. It’s there to show the man that McCall once was, not the man he is now. His demeanor never changes as he confronts his enemies and dispatches them. “What do you see when you look at me,” McCall is asked by the enforcer of the Russian gangster he has infuriated. “I don’t know,” he replies cooly. “What do you see when you look at ME.”
Washington is surrounded by a cast that compliments his performance. Moretz is vulnerable as the young girl who can only dream of a better life while, on the other side of the spectrum, Marton Csokas (who could easily pass as Kevin Spacey’s taller, older brother) is cool and calculated as the mob’s enforcer. When he and McCall face off verbally it’s like a prizefight that ultimately ends in a draw. Neither man will throw in the towel and their final confrontation is the equivalent of the last round, with each man needing a knockout to win!
There’s not a lot I can say about Denzel Washington that hasn’t been said before. I’ve been a fan of his ever since the film “Carbon Copy” and one of the highlights of my life was getting to speak with him for about 10 minutes in New York City shortly after he received his first Oscar nomination (for “Cry Freedom”). And even though he spelled my name wrong on the autograph he gave me (it’s A-E-L) he has always remained one of my favorite actors. His work here only adds to his already distinguished resume’.