It seems like only yesterday I closed my review of Roger Donaldson's lame Taken rip-off The November Man with these words: "It doubtless won't be long before the next aging star decides to get his Neeson on ... Who knows, maybe as soon as December." Maybe as soon as December? How about later that month!
I reviewed The November Man on September 3. The Equalizer hit theaters on September 26. This whole career-reinvigoration-by-means-of-a-lame-Taken-rip-off thing has gotten so out of hand, we can't go a month without a new one popping up. Am I the only one who finds this trend pathetic? Not to mention monotonous?
To the list of Liam wannabes (Mel Gibson, Nicolas Cage, Kevin Costner and Pierce Brosnan, to name but a few), we now add Denzel Washington. He's 60 — and, apparently, it's the law. He must play a former CIA superagent who takes on a gang of Eastern European sex traffickers employing his very particular set of skills — along with, in this case, an assortment of home and garden products.
That's because Washington plays Robert McCall, a mild-mannered Boston Home Mart worker who sells mulch by day and spends his nights reading The Old Man and the Sea in a diner straight out of Edward Hopper. One of his fellow nighthawks is a young Russian prostitute (Chloë Grace Moretz) who befriends McCall by discussing her dream of becoming a pop singer. That's a dream, by the way, that she shares with Taken's daughter-in-distress character. See if you can guess what the bad guys do to her.
Its enough to put the young woman in the ICU and, more importantly, to put McCall back in action. The next thing we know, he's inexplicably infiltrated the sex ring's secret headquarters and wiped out the entire crew using only his ninja-like reflexes and a corkscrew. This prompts the head of the syndicate (Vladimir Kulich) to dispatch his most cold-blooded enforcer to settle the score.
That enforcer, Teddy, played by Marton Csokas, is the biggest problem in a picture with nothing but problems. Where the other gangsters were tattoo-covered clichés, Teddy is nothing short of a cartoon — a flesh-and-blood Boris Badenov.
The actor doesn't have a subtle bone in his body. As he hunts down Washington's character, offing dirty cops on the Russian payroll and strangling the occasional prostitute for no apparent reason, he wears a permanent sneer. Csokas probably thought it made him look scary, but it really just makes him look constipated.
From its derivative premise to its so-over-the-top-it's-almost-funny finale, The Equalizer ranks with movie history's most monumental missteps. That's especially regrettable since it reunites the director of 2001's Training Day — Antoine Fuqua — with the star of that film, as harrowing and original as this one is hackneyed. Training Day earned Washington his Best Actor Oscar. Fuqua's work has gone downhill in the years since that collaboration, and here it hits an all-time artistic low. Three takeaways:
The only thing worse than a tedious, pointless film is an interminable tedious, pointless film. There was absolutely no reason for this thing to run two hours and 11 minutes.
Unstoppable killing machines become tiresome once it becomes clear they can't be stopped. Even when they're played by Oscar winners.
When Danny Glover uttered the immortal line, "I'm getting too old for this shit!" in 1987's Lethal Weapon, he was, believe it or not, just 40. Glover is now in his sixties, which, according to the topsy-turvy logic of the lame Taken rip-off, means he just might be up next. All these years later, he's exactly the right age for this shit.