Text by – LUDMILA GABUSI
Translation by – FEDERICA VECCHIO
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born… and the day you find out why.”
One of Mark Twain’s quotes starts the action movie: it may be a bit confusing, like those movies that leave you to do a double take because you’re asking yourself what you really just saw as soon as you exit the movie theatre. Could this be a lighter and more Blockbuster version of Taxi Driver? If you’re looking forward to enjoying: an overloaded cocktail of people involved in the mafia with thick Russian accents, literary extracts, broken necks, fights, and never ending introspective scenes, then this is definitely the movie for you. The 132-minute plot, which could easily be cut down to 90 minutes including credits, perhaps bites off more than it can chew by trying to please different audiences.
The story is a screen adaptation to the 1980s television series, The Equalizer, from which it takes several aspects, including numerous time-lapse “intervals”. Robert McCall, played by the talented Denzel Washington, is not one in charge of the dirty affair within the mafia, but is a former CIA agent looking for justice.
Antoine Fuqua, whose directing techniques unfortunately fall short in this movie by boiling down to just a few camera close-ups of the bad guy’s tattoos, leads Denzel Washington for a second time (the former cooperation between the two leading to an Oscar for Denzel as best leading actor in 2002).
The same old Denzel, close to celebrating his 60th birthday in December, does a great job in interpreting a character that, craving justice, can’t help but point the gun at the bad guys, and all this, with a certain elegance to it. The main character, Bob, I would say is a peaceful and typical American, until the moment in which he decides to rescue Teri the prostitute (played by Chloë Grace Moretz) from the Russian mafia. Nevertheless, he dedicates his free time in helping defend his friend and colleague, Ralphie, giving up his quiet and renewed life in order to become a protector of justice.
The Italian title suggests that the movie is mainly about revenge, but the English title, as it usually goes, is a lot more fitting to the concept of the movie. The plot does deal with revenge (and the facts are always displayed with a perturbing slowness), but it still makes an attempt at making the audience meditate, moving from fight scenes to literary cogitative pauses that make as think about a broader concept: choice. The protagonist, as a matter of fact, before condemning his victim to death, always grants the possibility for her to make the right choice and to redeem herself, which is why it’s more correct and fitting to say that Robert does not revenge, but “equalizes”.
On the other side of the bridge we find Teddy (a name extremely suitable for a Russian criminal) interpreted by Marton Csokas (Celeborn in the Lord of the Rings). This character follows the same pattern as the other characters: at first he appears as a cruel expert in “mafia problem solving” but then turns out to be an incapable onlooker of events who just before a showdown, holds a philosophic conversation with his rival in a high-end restaurant.
This is a movie that carries a lot of expectations and manages to fail them all. For instance: McCall constantly resets his watch, but why? The details of Denzel Washington’s eyes, almost like a visual leitmotiv, forewarn the audience (overused in Hollywood by now) that a fight is about to happen.
However, our expectations are of a scene in which Denzel uses his watch, or takes part in a complex choreography coordinated with the air conditioning system or the metro station, anything reminding us of Mission Impossible acrobatics. But in most of these cases (yes, surprisingly this happens quite often in the film) the watch just serves as a tool for the main character’s ego, the former CIA agent, who wants to show himself he can still get things done well and quickly. But then, finally. The scene you were waiting for the entire movie appears on the big screen. The scene that is so predictable it’s almost painful but that you secretly want to see in every action movie worthy of its name.
A computer generated graphic explosion, completely irrelevant to the plot and kind of “cheap”, obviously placed in the movie in order to redeem the movie. An explosion out of which the main character walks away from in slow motion. And then, it’s over. Our hero becomes a modern highlander who slowly walks away from the typical action movie, bringing us towards new and evolved cinematographic horizons.