The Equalizer, dir. Anton Fuqua, scr. Richard Wenk, based on The Equaliser by Michael Sloan, Richard Lindheim, st. Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Melissa Leo, Bill Pullman
Poor Robert McCall. All he wants to do is leave his Special Forces past behind him and wallow in his spartan monk-like existence of literature and insomnia but dammit people keep needing his help. If it's not Ralph, his portly colleague at the hardware wholesalers where the two work, who's trying to lose the pounds to become a security guard, it's Grace Moretz' sex-trafficked teenager Alina, repeatedly on the receiving end of her pimp Slavi's violent temper. Very loosely based on the 1985 CBS TV show of the same name, The Equalizer clearly strives for loftier ambitions than the average revenge-drama. Watching Washington's reluctant hero slice and dice his way through a Eurovision of European scumbags, it suddenly becomes clear what the vigilante movie means to Hollywood. It's its way of having it's cake and eating it. Look, it says, we get it. Violence is never the answer. Only sometimes, you know, it is. But only at the hands of someone who's intrinsically non-violent. And Grace Moretz may very well be a feminist who won't play the plot device, but... that's exactly what she's doing here. Alina is bona fide 100% pure victim. Somewhere in an alternate cut, there's more than the whisper we see of her in the film's first act, but for a motive for violence that purports to be all about rescuing her innocence, she's curiously absent for most of the movie. And further maddeningly, Washington and Grace Moretz are really rather good, who in between the latter's hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold closet-songstress cliché, and the former's killing machine with a code, who may read Hemingway's The Old Man And The Sea, but won't hesitate to put a shot-glass through your eye histrionics, share some rather genuinely soulful moments. Too humourless to trouble the likes of Brian Helgeland's Payback, that subversively recasts the vigilante as a incorrigible do-badder, and too disinterested to fully immerse itself in its own thematic murky waters of human trafficking, The Equalizer is just another 80s beat-'em-up shrouded in the veil of contemporary morality.