Tuesday, October 07, 2014

THE EQUALIZER: My review

It’s hard to believe that Edward Woodward and Denzel Washington would be playing the same role. But such is the case with THE EQUALIZER. The movie version is in theaters now.

It’s based on the TV series of the same name and basic premise from the mid-80’s. So first of all, the movie’s target audience was probably not born during the series run on CBS. So their expectations going into the Cineplex is just Denzel’s smile and explosions.

But as someone a tad older and a big fan of the TV version I couldn’t help but compare one with the other.

The movie is a fun ride. Denzel blows a lot of things up. He’s a super bad ass who can outthink and outkill any evil doer. So lots of audience-pleasing scenes of him single-handedly taking down the entire Russian mafia. He’s a human Vegematic -- slicing and dicing all in one easy motion.

And of course, since it’s Denzel, he’s also incredibly charming, good-hearted, and down-to-earth. He can suffocate my nemesis any day. Denzel plays Robert McCall (same name as the TV version – they were faithful to that at least), a former CIA agent (who probably roomed in spy school with Jason Bourne) now working at a big box home improvement store in Boston. At one point there’s a major action sequence there. Lots of fun with power drills, etc. All during it I kept thinking – good thing he didn’t work at Staples. He’s be thwarting the bad guys with stickers and dymo label makers.
So I enjoyed the film, but it never captured the essence of what made the TV show so unique and truly great in my opinion. Edward Woodward, at the time he was making the show, was already a distinguished British actor but in failing health. As a result, he was the most sedentary action hero in history. Bob Newhart is more active. Scott Caan is Jackie Chan by comparison. I think in one episode Woodward did a little judo chop move, although I suspect they used a stand-in. And yet, he could walk into a room of the scariest tatted motherfuckers you’ve ever seen and they would all cower at just his presence. It was hilarious. The entire underworld was intimidated by a fop in an overcoat.

So as much as I love Denzel, when I heard they were making a movie version I was hoping for Stephen Fry. Still, if you’re in the mood for a good by-the-numbers cry vengeance movie THE EQUALIZER fills the bill. And as a bonus, you learn new ways to use a club hammer.

UPDATE: Thanks to my readers, here's an awesome parody of the TV EQUALIZER from the Dave Thomas Show. Dave was a member of SCTV.

24 comments:

Scooter Schechtman said...

Well, why not? They replaced Woodward with Nicholas Cage in the "Wicker Man" remake and replaced him with a Hot Blonde in the "Callan" remake "Femme Nikita". This is American Television, where no desecration is too heinous.

Jim S said...

Dave Thomas, of SCTV fame not Wendy's, had a summer variety show on CBS in 1989. He did a parody of "The Equalizer" called the "The Emphasizer" in which thugs were intimidated by the hero's suburb diction and Shakesperean delivery. I've looked for a clipon Youtube for years. It was very funny, but I haven't seen it in 25 years.

Get on the job Internet.

luciuspaisley said...

It's amazing what typing "Dave Thomas Edward Woodward SCTV" into Google will get you in about 0.3 seconds, Jim...

http://youtu.be/rPXySex7pH8

Charles H. Bryan said...

I don't worry about adaptations, reimaginings, desecrations, etc., as long as they're well done. If we can do it to Shakespeare, we can do it to anything. If we didn't, we wouldn't have had WEST SIDE STORY. Who played Maria/Juliet in that movie, by the way?

MikeK.Pa. said...

I happened to see The Equalizer as part of a double-bill with A Walk Among the Tombstones with Liam Neeson last weekend at a drive-in movie theater (try finding one of those - I had to drive 70 miles). Both movies had a similar vein of using violence only when forced to on behalf of a person in jeopardy. It was like deja vu all over again to quote Yogi.

I remarked to my wife, as we were leaving, that I wished one of the retro/classic TV channels would run the original Equalizer. Nobody did a deadly stare or communicate controlled rage better than Edward Woodward.

I also thought he was the best portrayer (film or TV) of the Christmas Present character in the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol.

Unknown said...

A former spy who works in a Big Box store? Are you sure this is a remake of the old TV show or of Chuck?
-MW

Hamid said...

I'll see this, as I like a good vigilante action movie, but they should have just given it a different title, as it clearly has nothing to do with the TV show. The whole point of The Equalizer was to see an old British geezer going out and wasting bad guys and standing in front of a Jaguar in the dark while an awesome theme tune by Stewart Copeland plays. Apparently the movie doesn't even have the theme tune!

I'm awaiting the inevitable Magnum PI movie starring Jennifer Lawrence as Tammy Magnum, without the theme music and set in Detroit.

Mitchell McLean said...

Jackie Lee? Did Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee have a secret love child?

And if so... how? :-)

Ralph C. said...

I remember The Dave Thomas Show and The Equalizer. Dave was better.

Johnny Walker said...

Even as a teenager I thought THE EQUALIZER drifted into some pretty iffy sadistic territory (much like 24 would, years later -- Joel Surnow worked on both, coincidence? I wonder), but MAN what an opening sequence. I just re-watched it and I swear it holds up - for the most part.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OGXNzJ2cIE

Did they use any of Stewart Copeland's haunting theme in the reboot?

And, of course, certain inevitable jokes about Edward Woodward's name leap to mind, but they're too lame to repeat.

Anonymous said...

Friday Question:

Any thoughts about the Groundlings latest contention that Saturday Night Live has been directly ripping them off for years?

-Stewey

Hamid said...

So a recording has surfaced in which actor Stephen Collins admits to molesting children. He's been fired from TED 2 as a result.

I'd never heard of this guy before today. Apparently he's best known for a TV show called 7th Heaven, which I'm happy to say I've never watched. According to Wikipedia, "The show was praised for its positive portrayal of a cleric and for promoting honesty, respect for parental authority." Collins played the role of the cleric, Pastor Eric Camden. And, as it turns out, he was perfectly suited to the role.

Johnny Walker said...

FRIDAY QUESTION: Any thoughts on the surprising resurrection of TWIN PEAKS, 25 years after its cancellation? (It must surely be a first in TV history -- apparently they're not completely rebooting, they're continuing the story!)

RockGolf said...

There was an early 1960s singer, Jackie Lee who had a hit called "The DucK".

He then went back to his original name Earl Nelson, and recorded as half of "Bob & Earl", who wrote & recorded "Harlem Shuffle", later covered by The Rolling Stones.

Cap'n Bob said...

Stephen Collins also did Tales of the Gold Monkey, IRRC.

I didn't know Dave Thomas had a show. He was great on SCTV but for some reason didn't have the success of some of his castmates. His impersonation of Bob Hope is the best--maybe only--one extant. Thanks for the clip.

I'm at a loss to understand why they take a classic show and make a movie of it that it no way resembles the original.

Mark said...

The Equalizer was a semi-sequel to the late-Sixties Callan, a largely successful attempt to do with le Carre what everyone else was doing at the time with Ian Flaming.

Callan deservedly made Woodward a name in the UK. It was a remarkable portrayal of perhaps the most bitter lead character in series television (at least for a long running show).

Definitely worth seeking out on YouTube.

gottacook said...

I had not heard the Stephen Collins story before now, but he first came to my attention through his role as the "guest star" (the displaced Captain Decker) in the 1979 Star Trek - The Motion Picture. Never watched (which also featured the "guest star" of the fourth Star Trek movie, Catherine Hicks).

gottacook said...

Should have been "Never watched 7th Heaven (which also featured...)"

Buttermilk Sky said...

What about Denzel Washington and Frank Sinatra playing the same role ("The Manchurian Candidate")?
Same name, anyway, but a totally rewritten script. I remember the Woodward series (fondly), and he sure didn't work at Home Depot, so I assume the movie took only its basic premise from the show. Better Denzel than Steven Seagal.

Blair Ivey said...

I remember the TV show, but the font in the screencap made me think it was from the French version, as I read it as Le Equalizer.

Lorimartian said...

Stewey, the Groundlings shouldn't feel slighted. The first two new season episodes of SNL have been unwatchable, so if SNL is ripping them off, SNL is doing a lousy job. Describing these episodes as "uneven" is kind...the worst in SNL's history, and I've watched from the very beginning.

DBenson said...

When the video revolution started, big screen remakes or reboots often triggered a video release of the originals. A nice change from days of old, when studios would buy up previous versions of a property and simply lock them away.

Surprised "The Equalizer" isn't getting that treatment. Even the "Nancy Drew" movie yielded a video release of four late 30s B movies (Bonita Granville as Nancy does what Margaret Rutherford does as Miss Marple: infuriate purists while amusing everybody else).

Steve said...

To my mind the essence of the TV series was that in a scary world, your dad's here and everything's going to be OK. You don't get that from a Jackie Lee or a Jason Bond.

Anonymous said...

DBenson,
The Equalizer is available on DVD. You can get individual seasons or a complete boxed set