Movie Meltdown

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The Equalizer

2014-11-26

by Kyle Armstrong

     A man, with a barely minimum wage job, befriends an underage prostitute and because he has a good heart, he locates her pimps to take justice into his own hands and become an underground crime fighter. Now the plot I just described is not the plot for the movie Taxi Driver, as similar as it sounds. It is the synopsis for The Equalizer, sadly directed by Training Day director Antoine Fuqua. Before we start, this movie will tend to take a brick of symbolism and throw it at you every 5 minutes. Just in case you don't notice, be warned that clocks, skulls, water and specifically the books he reads are all “symbolic”. Be prepared.

     There is no doubt in my mind that this movie is going to be the new Taken, and because of that will possibly get several sequels (like Taken, that is finally releasing Tak3n). That has me thinking of possible follow-up titles for The Equalizer. How about the Equal2er? What about the 3qualizer? Anyway, to sum it up, this movie is kind of dumb. It isn't really the movie's fault. I didn't have any high standards for it, I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would, but for all the wrong reasons. So here is my first problem, a minor issue, Robert McCall is, or never was, one of the Pips in Gladys Knight and the Pips. Now why does this bother me? He mentions it several times throughout the film, even setting up a point where he dances to the song Midnight Train to Georgia. But I do not want to live in this world where I can just pretend Robert was a Pip. He is lying to me and the audience and I cannot stand for it.

     So this film did do something right. I must say, I was fond of the protagonist Robert. He has this OCD, he is really social, and a pretty positive guy. Not to mention his particular set of skills (Gladys Knight must have taught her Pips something that never went on record). He is really skilled and really observant, to a point where he can literally slow time down with his mind. That got me to thinking - he is impenetrable to both bullets and explosions. He can disappear and reappear whenever convenient. He has a secret identity that only a few loved ones know about, he has a cheesy super name and stands for truth, justice, and the American way... Robert is a superhero! It makes so much sense now. All he needs is a giant 'E' on his chest and a mask to hide his identity. Nobody shoots at him that much because they know it is useless, bullets don't have any effect on him. While Taxi Driver promoted a faulty man trying to make a difference and fight crime, while still being this outsider. A loser nobody notices until he does something major. It is The Equalizer where the man is literally a super hero that faces no problems ever, even when his wife is gone without any explanation. 

     The "bad" past he refers to many times in the film, which really confuses me. He keeps stating he will "never go back to that bad past", but tells the main villain (who also has superpowers) that he will "go back to it" for him. What was so bad about it? He still kills people now, he slit some dude's throat not that long ago. It can't be that he tortured people either, since he watched another dude bleed out. What is this "bad past"? The final battle makes even less sense because of that "bad" past. 

     In most films, the main character must go through a change of some sort. But this character is always how he is - because he doesn't need to change. And that is why I found him so interesting. He is too good. It is really weird. He is the most social person I have seen in a film - he is overly positive. Yet he will murder someone with a sledgehammer for holding up "Home Mart".

     I probably would've overlooked this film, if it weren't for the director, the cast, and the box office. But what could also be the draw is the inspiration for the material at hand. If you didn’t know, The Equalizer is based on a television series from the 80's that wasn't really well known. But like every 80's television show, it has to be updated and turned into a movie. The show made more sense seeing that he was a former intelligence agent who left to become a private detective/gun for hire. But in the 2014 remake, he basically works for a Home Depot clone, leaving him little to no power. Which means in the process of doing the things he does - he is breaking the law, making him a criminal. Which contradicts what he stands for, no matter how good he believes his actions are.

     What about the action? It is fine for a mindless action film… except it wants to have a mind. It tries to show as much detail as possible, but like most Zach Snyder films, it has too much horrendous slow motion. He is really precise with the killings, especially one involving a corkscrew, which does take up to what seems to be a full 60 seconds or more. Which is odd since the rest of the Russian pimps in the room stand around, with their guns in their holsters, waiting for their turn to fight Denzel and lose.

     Now what about the ending? I will try not to spoil anything, just imagine if Paul Blart was an action/drama. I am dumbfounded by the reviews this movie is getting. Actually, I expect dumb movies to get a big box office and a decent buzz nowadays, but I have literally only seen two bad reviews for this film. One is Rolling Stone and the other is an unofficial IMDB review - and that kind of makes me sad. I can see this film being a guilty pleasure of some sort, but it doesn't have a sense of that. It would be as if The Naked Gun trilogy were to take itself completely serious, instead of being a parody. It is not horrible, but it is not very good. I actually feel bad giving it a bad review (that could be a first). I like the cast and director, but the writing is kind of lazy, as is the directing. Will it get a sequel? Of course it will.

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