For fans of 1980s TV, The Equalizer will evoke memories of a rather good US spy drama in which Edward Woodward played suave spy turned do-gooder Robert McCall who helped a weekly procession of victims achieve justice.
This was long before the days of Victim’s Impact Statements when the best the wronged party could hope for was the assistance of a kindly stranger looking to cleanse his conscious by kicking the crap out of lowlifes each week.
Antoine Fuqua’s film takes the broadest elements of the TV series and recasts them as a dark, modern action thriller which will leave you wincing in sympathetic pain.
When we first meet McCall (Denzel Washington) he’s doing a bad job of passing himself as an ordinary Joe, working away at a local DIY superstore and giving up his lunch breaks to help a colleague pass a fitness test.
But it’s immediately apparent that there’s far more to him – not least a sense of brooding menace which he never quite manages to mask with his affected quiet, methodical manner.
When a fellow patron of McCall’s local all-night cafe is hospitalised by her pimp, he steps in to put things right, initially with an offer of buying the girl and then, when the bad guys are too stupid to take the cash, with a distressing bout of violence which leaves none of his foes alive.
But while McCall’s intervention brings temporary freedom for the prostitute and her friends, it royally pisses off the Russian mafia boss for whom the pimp works.
Cue the arrival of his henchman Teddy (Marton Csokas), hellbent on tracking down and dealing with the unwelcome hinderance.
The two embark on a terrifyingly violent game of cat & mouse across the city before settling their differences in a climatic battle in the DIY centre – a setting which allows McCall to kill the bad guys with a mix of gardening and DIY supplies that the A-Team would be proud of concocting.
Richard Wenk’s script never troubles itself to mimic either the multi-layered world of the TV original or its rich tapestry of secondary characters on which Woodward’s McCall could call upon.
Instead we get a predictable, vigilante action flick with largely underdeveloped characters, which is only rescued by Washington’s hypnotic portrayal of McCall which captivates you from the outset and holds your attention through to the satisfying bloody climax.
The Equalizer hits UK cinemas on September 26th.