Despite his charm and natural charisma, Denzel Washington has made a career out of playing guys that shouldn’t be very likeable. From Philadelphia and Training Day to American Gangster and Flight, Washington has used his talent to make you care about his characters, no matter how uncaring or flawed they may be. His character in the violent The Equalizer, though, remains a hard-to-like cipher, earning no real sympathy during his entire quest of altruistic vengeance.
Robert McCall (Washington) lives a simple life. He works in a Home Mart, mostly keeping to himself but still finding time to help a co-worker lose weight. A man of meticulous and exact habit – as the movie shows us over and over and over again – McCall goes to a coffee shop downtown every night at 2:00 AM to have a cup of tea, read a classic book, and make small talk with Alina (Chloe Grace Moretz), a teen prostitute who frequents the place between johns.
One night, Alina fights back against a violent client and is left in critical condition at the hospital. McCall decides to confront her pimp, but when it becomes clear that her freedom from his abuse can’t be bought, McCall begins executing everyone in his path with a professional precision.
McCall’s mysterious backstory is clearly meant to be seen as an important reveal, yet it’s relatively obvious in its simplicity and most people will arrive there before the script does. Additionally, if you’ve seen any of the trailers, the third-act twist has already been spoiled for you, so even the mild impact it may have had on you will be lost.
Washington tries his best with the ambiguous character, but ultimately, the stupid and nonsensical screenplay is too large an obstacle for him to overcome. Not only does the script lazily pick up and drop characters as needed, there are so many plot holes requiring so much suspension of disbelief, it’s nearly impossible to enjoy the movie straight through to its brainless ending.
While some of Washington’s movies are simply good or just adequate, he doesn’t often make ones that are kind of… well, bad. The Equalizer wants to belong in one of the former groups, but the dumb storyline, the stupid script, and the lacklustre supporting performances ultimately leave this as one the most unimaginative and forgettable movies of Denzel Washington’s career.