The day before New Year’s Eve, I rented two movies from Redbox. Both were movies I originally wanted to see in theaters, but hesitated because of mixed or poor reviews.
One of the two was The November Man, starring Pierce Brosnan and directed by Roger Donaldson. I wanted to like it, but did not. The story is a jumbled mess, lacking coherence and thrust, and Brosnan is left to carry the movie mostly by himself. I’ve already devoted more words than I should to the film – don’t waste your time.
The balance to this, if you will, came from The Equalizer, starring Denzel Washington and directed by Antoine Fuqua. After the first of my two rentals disappointed me, I was not very hopeful about this one. The trailers looked very good and Denzel is usually a good bet, but the only thing I heard about the film was that it was boring and it made very few waves upon its release.
I can see why it was received this way, and while I am glad I did not see The Equalizer in theaters, I unreservedly recommend watching this film.
Yes, it is beautifully shot and there is much for the eye to feast upon, but it is a film that necessitates pause. It is a film that invites contemplation. It is a film which tells you to be mindful within the first five minutes through the illustration of a thoughtful life that is Robert McCall. He seeks peace and calm through the power of ritual.
This humble, yet exemplary man of character demonstrates greatness in small capacities that eventually build him into a mountain best summed up by this: “Progress, not perfection.” A profound and thoughtful mantra espoused by Robert. Pause for thought, not what was advertised.
The film was advertised as a straight up action flick with Denzel kicking much ass. Now, there is plenty of action, and it is epic, but The Equalizer is far from your standard action flick. Rather the action comes as an aside to Robert’s own character development. His internal struggle with his mysterious past. His desire to help those who need it. And the friction created as he goes against a Russian fixer by the name of Teddy, played to perfection by Marton Csokas.
Every lead role needs a foil, a nemesis, and the stronger the performance of the lead, the more substantial the foil needs to be. Csokas delivers hands down. The performance is spot on and again, summed up early on with Teddy’s introduction to the local cadre of dirty cops.
It is steeped in language and storytelling and character and thought, using many classic narrative structures and devices. For example, one device used comes in the form of the three books Robert reads in the diner. We begin with the Old Man and the Sea, which he illuminates the meaning of in the narrative. Second, Don Quixote – which is never named, only alluded to when he describes it as being “about a man who wants to be a Knight in Shining Armor in a time when there are no more knights.” At the conclusion, once he has come to terms with who he is and wants to be, we see simply that he is reading Invisible Man.
Robert McCall is a gentle man, a humble man, and as inexorable as a force of nature. He won’t solve your problems. He helps others to help themselves. He champions the betterment of one’s self and one’s position in the world, only stepping in when the odds are unfairly stacked against those he helps. Balancing the scales.
An excellent film that espouses more than anything what character and integrity are about.
And that home improvement stores are potential death traps…
Also, this guy’s mustache makes the movie.
So if you feel the world is against you. Look for the gentleman with the quiet voice sitting in the corner booth reading a book.