'The Equalizer': The hero's invincibility becomes a little silly

'The Equalizer' stars Denzel Washington in a powerful performance as a former George W. Bush-era intelligence operative who now lives a quiet life until he takes a paternal interest in an abused teenage prostitute.

Scott Garfield/Sony – Columbia Pictures/AP
'The Equalizer' stars Denzel Washington.

Fans of the mid-1980s TV series “The Equalizer,” which starred Edward Woodward, now have to contend with Denzel Washington in the title role. Robert McCall (Washington), a former George W. Bush-era intelligence operative, has retreated to a quiet under-the-radar life working in a Home Mart mega-store. The actor exudes a formidable force field even when he’s sipping coffee by himself in an all-night Boston diner that looks like a dead ringer for the one in Edward Hopper’s “Night Hawks.”

Robert takes a paternal interest in a teenage prostitute (Chloë Grace Moretz) who gets severely roughed up by her pimps in the Russian mob. He goes after them with a cool but unstoppable force. When the Russians send in their top fixer, Teddy (Marton Csokas, scarily effective), Robert goes after him, too. 

In the unduly gory set pieces, Antoine Fuqua, who also directed Washington in his Oscar-winning performance in “Training Day,” borrows a lot from Tarantino and Hong Kong action directors like John Woo. At almost no time is McCall in any real danger, despite the parade of thugs and killers and corrupt cops on his trail. His invincibility is Zen-like, and also a little silly. This is a kid’s fantasy of how to be bigger and badder than anybody else. As for Washington, no doubt he now has his very own franchise. Grade: B- (Rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, including some sexual references.)

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