Film Review: The Equalizer

by Mark Woodhouse

Rated MA15+. Starring Denzel Washington, Chloë Grace Moretz. Directed by Antoine Fuqua.

Look out! Denzel Washington is back to carry out some hardware store justice. 

Robert McCall (Washington) is just your average Home Mart (think Bunnings) employee. He rides the train to work and the bus home again, for no apparent reason. He jokes around with his work mates. He goes home at night and cannot sleep, so he sits through the night reading books in the local 24-hour Diner. 

It’s here that he meets Teri (Moretz), a scantily-clad young girl helplessly under the control of a local Russian pimp, Slavi (David Meunier). When Slavi puts Teri into Intensive Care, McCall turns up to ‘equalize’ the situation. Clearly, he is more than meets the eye, and he leaves a room full of dead bodies in his wake. 

McCall has served justice, and he likes it. If you’re oppressed and helpless, McCall is willing to use his frightening abilities to serve vengeance on your oppressor. He has become the Equalizer.

But he has inadvertently upset one of the biggest Russian gangsters there is, and the psychopathic Teddy (Marton Csokas) is on McCall’s trail. It’s a like a game of very violent chess as each looks to outfox and out-murder the other. 

This is a very violent movie. McCall seems to find more and more inventive and brutal ways of ending people’s lives (there are actually a LOT of dangerous weapons available for purchase from Home Mart – as long as you know what to do with them). We’re sparred the most gruesome details, but there’s still enough blood and suggestion to churn your stomach. 

The tone of the film is generally quite dark, and director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) has utilised close-ups well to restrict what we as viewers can actually see, keeping things tense. We sometimes enter McCall’s head to see what he’s observing before launching his attack, but these scenes are jumpy and blurred, which I found annoying. 

The darkness and violence show us how McCall thinks of justice. To end the oppression of the weak, he is happy to ‘make the wrong choices to get to the right places’.

For him, justice is the end that justifies the means, justice is brutal, justice is killing the unjust. This is the kind of thing that happens when we decide what’s right. 

Robert McCall looked, and saw no justice. In the Bible, Job also looked, and saw no justice (Job 19:7). Habakkuk also looked, and saw no justice (Habakkuk 1:4). But while McCall took it into his own hands, Job and Habakkuk called out to the God of justice.

They do this because they know that we have a God who loves justice (Psalm 37:28), and who ‘works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.’ (Psalm 103:6). Jesus promises justice for all those who cry out to him for justice (Luke 18:7). Indeed, we can look forward to the new heaven and new earth when God will reign in justice, and ‘will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away’ (Revelation 21:4)!

God is just. And God’s justice doesn’t involve a gun or a corkscrew or a drill. It involves 2 beams of wood, some nails, and a perfect sacrifice made once for all, to bring us to God. God’s justice goes hand in hand with his mercy.

The Equalizer will hold your attention, and will shock you with the calmness with which McCall carries out his violent justice. But it’s nothing special in any way whatsoever. I’m giving it two-and-a-half out of five.

The Equalizer will be released later this week in cinemas everywhere.

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