“The Equalizer” (2014)

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★★★★☆

This is a remake of the classic 1980’s TV show starring Edward Woodward, but with Denzel Washington starring in the title role as “Robert McCall.” The locale has been moved to Boston which lends a different feel than a film shot in New York (where the original series was set).

Antoine Fuqua (“King Arthur”, “The Replacement Killers”) directs and as usual does a great job. The film has a great gritty look to it, all the characters ring true, and there are no lapses in the flow of the film.

The basic story is that “McCall” is some kind of former CIA/black-ops guy who left that life and now works in a Home Depot kind of store. He has the peaceful life he wanted. Until the local Russian mobsters beat up a girl he likes to talk to in the nearby diner. Violence ensues and as it turns out the local Russian mob is connected to the Big Time Russian Mob, who send their fixer to find out who’s killing their people. And then there’s more violence. Along the way, “McCall” also helps some other people in dealing with crooked cops and robbers.

There’s a McGiver-ish feel to this film in that “McCall” only kills one person using an actual firearm. Since he works in a hardware store he kills guys with everything from barbed wire to a corkscrew. The Equalizer is so good at what he does he doesn’t need actual weapons. Anything that’s handy is a weapon.

The cat-and-mouse game between McCall and the Russian bad-guy is well done. It’s not the usual brute-force kind of thing. It’s shot in a way where you can appreciate the minds of these two seasoned killers at work. The measures McCall takes to throw them off the trail are creatively written. I suppose that if you prefer constant bang-bang action, this part may be a negative. But it’s kind of cool to see the spy-craft being used. And it’s nice to see a director spend time on these kinds of details.

Washington does an awesome job. There’s a silent rage that he keeps just below the surface. And when he goes into action it’s all about efficiency. Despite all the killing and maiming, he maintains a sense of dignity and morality. He gives every bad guy a choice – of course, the always choose wrong.

This isn’t a fast-paced movie like another of the Bourne franchise. The pacing, action, and attention to detail reminded me more of Luc Besson’s “The Professional.” Definitely worth checking out.