With the current vogue for ageing action heroes – Liam Neeson, the Expendables, more recently Kevin Costner – it’s easy to forget that Denzel Washington has been doing this for ever. Or a decade or so anyway, ever since his ex-CIA officer John Creasy tore up half of Mexico in Tony Scott’s Man on Fire. Here he reunites with another former collaborator, Antoine Fuqua (with whom he won an Oscar for Training Day), to play former black-ops commando Robert McCall. And this time the nation that needs to watch out is Russia.
The Equalizer is a remake of the 80s TV series that starred Edward Woodward as a sort of refined Charles Bronson, taking out street scum with a Walther PPK and a stiff upper lip. This film begins in similar territory with Washington’s McCall volunteering to assist a young prostitute called Lena (Chloë Grace Moretz) who’s been bloodily assaulted by her pimp.
McCall has come to know Lena as part of his meticulous daily routine. He has a smoothie in the morning, gets on the bus to work, is a cheery adviser to young colleagues at a DIY superstore, then returns for dinner in a local diner that really should pay Edward Hopper some royalties. It’s there that he chats with Lena, sharing his vaguely hippyish wisdom (“mind, body, spirit”) and ploughing through classic works of literature. He’s organised to the point of mania, holding himself together for the memory of his dead wife. It’s a small drama with a vague air of menace and it’s all quite compelling.