A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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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?
- In theaters: September 26, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: December 30, 2014
- Cast: Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz, Marton Csokas
- Director: Antoine Fuqua
- Studios: Sony Pictures Releasing, Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 131 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong bloody violence and language throughout, including some sexual references