The Equalizer

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Equalizer Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Denzel's TV-based action thriller is violent but stylish.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 131 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 11 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 21 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie celebrates doing good deeds for others and using whatever skills you have to help those in need. In this case, however, the skills involve brutal killing...

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is almost a superhero, selflessly devoting his life to helping others, living a minimal existence, and being prepared to give his life savings to help someone in need. He's highly skilled and trained and is definitely one of the good guys, but part of his method of helping involves homicidal violence.


The main character kills many bad guys with all different kinds of weapons, including guns and knives, a corkscrew (which protrudes from the victim's jaw up into his mouth), a shot glass, barbed wire, and a power drill. A great deal of blood is shown, dripping and pooling on the floor. A teen prostitute is slapped and beaten (bruises are shown). A man is bashed with an ash tray and then repeatedly pummeled. A man kills a woman with a choke hold. A man threatens another man by locking him in a car with the exhaust pumped into the cab. The main character cauterizes a wound with a heated doorknob. Gory crime scene photos are shown.


Co-star Chloe Grace Moretz, who wasn't yet 18 at the time of filming, plays a prostitute who wears sexy clothes and poses and walks to attract sexual attention. She gets into a car with a man, presumably to have sex with him. An older prostitute is also shown in much the same situation. That said, prostitution is never really mentioned by name, only alluded to with some innuendo. A man is shown in the shower, with nothing sensitive on view.


"F--k" is used fairly frequently, as well as "motherf----r." "S--t" and "bulls---" are also used from time to time. Occasionally, "p---y," "bitch," and "ass." Eminem provides the movie's closing theme song, which comes with its own array of language.


A Pringles can is shown. A Coca-Cola machine can be seen in one shot. The character uses a Sony VAIO computer. Clover honey is used to treat a gunshot wound.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Russian gangsters drink a few glasses of vodka in a nightclub and in their office.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Equalizer is a Denzel Washington action thriller that's (loosely) based on the same-named 1980s TV series. It's very violent, and although Washington plays a good guy who's very helpful to those around him, he kills lots of bad guys in brutal, bloody ways (including guns, knives, a corkscrew, a shot glass, barbed wire, and a power drill). Language is also very strong, with many uses of "f--k," as well as other strong words. Some of the female characters are prostitutes, and though their business is more alluded to than discussed, it's fairly obvious. Actress Chloe Grace Moretz wasn't yet 18 when she filmed her part, which involves wearing sexy, revealing clothing (but there's no actual nudity). Some brand names are shown, and Russian gangsters drink some vodka. Though it's violent, the movie is also very stylish, and Washington's character is appealing in a superhero, Jack Bauer-like way.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJ0E August 3, 2019

Violence is quite graphic but can be handled by mature people

The Equalizer is a good movie for mature children of 14 years and older. The fight scenes are fairly graphic with blood being shown very often. However if your... Continue reading
Adult Written byAdison1234 November 9, 2020
Teen, 15 years old Written byrave day November 3, 2014

The Equalizer

Sex 5/10
Violence 8/10
Language 7/10
Teen, 13 years old Written bySupernova1 March 25, 2021

Great brutal action movie!

violence 9/10 infrequent extremely graphic violence.

language 10/10 uncountable number of f bombs

sex 2/10 implied sex and prostitutes.

What's the story?

Based on the 1980s TV series that starred Edward Woodward, THE EQUALIZER centers on Robert McCall (Denzel Washington), a retired secret agent who's trying to live a normal life in Boston, working at the Home Depot-like Home Mart. When he meets a young prostitute (Chloe Grace Moretz) living under the control of Russian gangsters, McCall decides to take action. Effortlessly killing five men, he creates trouble for a much larger criminal network, and an expert problem solver called Teddy (Marton Csokas) is called in to get McCall. Meanwhile, McCall helps out some of his co-workers with other problems as the gangsters realize that they can use his friends to get to him. Everything builds to a showdown at the store. Can McCall save the day?

Is it any good?

This film many not be particularly deep or profound, but it's a well-made (if violent) action thriller. The Equalizer re-teams director Antoine Fuqua and star Washington; their previous collaboration, Training Day, won Washington a Best Actor Oscar. They seem to bring out the best in each other. Fuqua spends luxurious sequences listening to his characters talk to one another, listening, getting to know what makes them tick. This goes for good guys and bad guys alike; Csokas' character has a history and is shown to be smart, rather than just evil. But it works best for Washington's character. McCall is tough and nearly invincible, like a superhero, but he has doubts and personal demons that are endlessly fascinating; the great actor never runs out of things to do onscreen.

On the action front, Fuqua builds slowly to his fight scenes, generating suspense and creating atmosphere, especially in the lengthy showdown in the home improvement store.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Equalizer's violence. If the main character is supposed to be a good guy, why are his killings so bloody? How would the movie have been different with less violence? Would it have the same impact?

  • How did the movie handle the issue of the young prostitute? What's shown and not shown? What's discussed and not discussed?

  • Is the main character a role model? He's selfless and helpful and does many good deeds, but he's also exceedingly violent and brutal in his killings. How would you feel about someone like this in real life?

  • What did you think of the scene in which the main character sits at a table with the bad guy and has a discussion? Does it deepen the characters, or did it just slow down the plot? How?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love action and thrills

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