There is a lot of ugliness in “The Equalizer.”
Based on the 1980s television series, the new thriller reunites the “Training Day” team of actor Denzel Washington and director Antoine Fuqua. It is another in a disturbing trend of films that centers on violent acts toward women.
Maybe it’s just the fact that I’ve finally seen enough, or maybe it’s because some of that violence involves 17-year-old actress Chloe Grace Moretz, but “The Equalizer” is my breaking point.
It’s a film that starts in a nasty place and gets progressively worse throughout its 137-minute running time.
This project is way below the talents of people like Washington and Fuqua.
Washington plays McCall, a man with a mysterious past who befriends a young prostitute named Teri (Moretz). When Teri is severely beaten by her employer, the head of a group of Russian gangsters, McCall uses his past special ops-type skills to wage a one-man war.
And from there the violence escalates to epically unsettling proportions, with McCall evolving into a vigilante Rain Man.
One attacker gets a corkscrew through his neck. Another takes a shot glass through the eye. And there are more stomach-turning violent moments, all shot with stylistic slow motion shots that only glorify all the damage.
I also had a huge problem with seeing Moretz beaten and verbally degraded to the point that I had a hard time distinguishing between the character and the actress.
Washington is such a commanding screen presence that you would think something in “The Equalizer” would work, but it all fails miserably.
The worst part is the final scene hints that this could be the start of a franchise. I think I’d rather have a “Saw” reboot than sit through another one of these films, which is one of the lowest points of 2014 to date.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “Obvious Child” (B+), the indie comedy that serves as a showcase for “Saturday Night Live” alum Jenny Slate.
Slate plays Donna, a 20-something standup comic fresh off a painful break-up with her longtime boyfriend.
Donna has a drunken one-night stand with Max (Jake Lacy), which results in an unplanned pregnancy – leaving Donna to ponder whether she is ready to be a mom.
The plot has gotten the movie tagged as “The Abortion Movie” since its release. Yes, the film does take a pro-choice stand, but there is also more here than a political agenda.
Writer/director Gillian Robespierre’s film is more of a character study, with the audience watching Donna evolve from an irresponsible carefree person to a more grounded adult.
Slate makes it work with a breakthrough performance. Here is a woman who can be brutally honest when sharing her pain on stage but is a mess when she isn’t behind a microphone.
There is a rawness and vulnerability in her performance that you don’t see enough in movies.
Like Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader in the current release “The Skeleton Twins,” Slate shows a dramatic range that showcases her talents as an actress.
Even when the film settles into a bit of a familiar romantic comedy formula, Slate carries the film to another level – making it one of the year’s hidden gems that deserves a second life on home video.
“Obvious Child” is rated R for language and sexual content and will be available on DVD on Tuesday.