The Equalizer

the-equalizer
DIR: Antoine Fuqua  • WRI: Richard Wenk • PRO: Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Denzel Washington • DOP: Mauro Fiore • ED: John Refoua • DES: Naomi Shohan • MUS: Harry Gregson-Williams • CAST: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo

The Equalizer is in essence a reboot of the 1980s television show of the same time. The story follows McCall (not to be confused with McClane). McCall is a man with a mysterious government-tainted past who uses his unique set of skills to help those who could not escape the clutches of danger themselves. This movie reboot is significantly darker than its predecessor and Denzel Washington works hard to reinvent a much beloved character as his own.

Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) makes a strained attempt to move on from a mysterious past but can’t help but intervene when he uncovers a young woman Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz) under the control of Russian gangsters. McCall vows to help her in whatever way he can -thus unleashing a protective fury that would probably make Liam Neeson blush

The Equalizer certainly doesn’t feel like your average TV cop show reboot and feels more like a welcome addition to the Bourne saga as we witness McCall’s inability to shake off a not-so-distant pass when faced with the peril of others. It is slightly jarring as we are so used to the comedic timing of a witty ex-cop John McClane archetype, that here Washington plays a somewhat introverted, more pensive and less charismatic character which takes the film from an average action thriller to a suspenseful character-driven narrative.

Personally speaking, I am notoriously squeamish and whilst The Equalizer is expectedly gory and explosive in parts, it only occasionally feels excessive as the viewer is brought straight back into the heart of the story through its fully developed three-dimensional characters. The downside to this being the fact that we are expecting an all-out action offensive, which does unfortunately mean that the switch to character-driven dramatic thriller makes the film seem overly long in parts.

Washington gives a good performance here as we have come to expect, but Chloe Grace Moretz steals the show in a role intended for someone much older. Her talent far belies her age as she strays far away from previous roles here. Moretz has already managed to avoid teen typecasting and has shown her strengths in a variety of roles this year, solidifying her status as one of today’s brightest young actresses.

Whilst The Equalizer is far from an inspired tale and may not stay with you for years to come, it certainly defies expectation. Once you’ve got yourself set up ready for a traditional fun brainless action movie, you might be surprised to find yourself sucked in with this suspenseful and engaging thriller with characters you realize you don’t really want to see blown up.

If that’s not a good endorsement for an action movie, I don’t know what is.

 

Ciara  O’Brien

16 (See IFCO for details)

131 minutes

The Equalizer is released 26th September 2014

The Equalizer – Official Website

 

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Cinema Review: 2 Guns

2 Guns 10

Dir: Baltasar Kormakur • Wri: Peter Ladinigg, Umat Dag • PRO: Andrew Cosby, Randall Emmett, George Furla, Norton Herrick, Ross Richie, Adam Siegel DOP: Oliver Wood  • Ed: Michael Tronick • DES: Beth Mickle • Cast: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Edward James Olmos, James Marsden, Paula Patton

We meet smooth-as-silk Bobby (Washington) and motormouth Stig (Wahlberg) as they’re planning to rob a bank – a heist that goes even better than they could have imagined, because when all the dust settles they’ve got way more money than they bargained for. Way, way, more. Around $43 million dollars more, to be exact.

There may be trouble ahead, and it’s now that Bobby reveals himself as a deeply undercover DEA agent. He was looking to finally bring Greco (Olmos) to justice – it was his drug smuggling money they were stealing – but the tables are turned when Stig shoots him in the arm and leaves him behind in the desert, taking the cash to his boss Quince (Marsden).

Quince is a bigwig in Naval Intelligence, and it’s now that we find out Stig is also an undercover man doing his duty for Uncle Sam. But what’s the $43 million bucks going to be used for? That soon becomes a minor problem when everyone realizes that the money isn’t Greco’s – it belongs to someone else; someone serving a much more dangerous master.

Soon enough Bobby and Stig are on the run, a reluctant pair who trust each other about as far as they can throw each other – which isn’t far enough. Getting the cash back might get them their freedom, but then Greco gets hold of Bobby’s girl and fellow DEA agent Deb (Patton), and the bickering pair are tracking down – and trying to stay ahead – of a trio of gun toting, bull-breeding, helicopter-flying villains…

In a summer full of big blockbuster movies – nearly all of which have failed to hit the target – this guns ‘n quips action movie should find an audience. Starring the ever-reliable Washington and the likeable Wahlberg, this is by-the-numbers entertainment that’s high on bullets and explosions and contains the requisite number of twists and betrayals.

It’s a nice spin to have both of the leads working undercover and learning along the way that they’ve been lying to each other, though some of the subsequent revelations are obvious well in advance, so it’s kind of a pity Washington and Wahlberg didn’t get enough time to exercise their bitching, arguing and sniping.

More of this comic side would have made us buy them more cheaply as buddies, and the emotion is kept on a tight rein too, the pair seeming more like superheroes than people. Down the bullets rain as the bodies hit the dirt, but there’s no blood on show and the pair seem to barely get a scratch – probably in order to get the low certification – and at times it seems more like The A Team than a hard scrabble, dangerous actioner.

The roots of this story in Steven Grant’s graphic novel perhaps explain this pseudo-cartoonish feel, and though director Kormakur (who worked with Wahlberg on last year’s also blandish Contraband) does a decent enough job keeping up the pace, having three villains never really allows you to focus your fear for the lads, and in the end it’s all rather unforgettable stuff, if divertingly entertaining.

James Bartlett

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)

108 mins
2 Guns is released on 16th August 2013

2 Guns  – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Flight

 
DIR:Robert Zemeckis • WRI: John Gatins • PRO: Laurie MacDonald, Cherylanne Martin, Walter F. Parkes, Jack Rapke, Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis • DOP: Don Burgess • ED: Jeremiah O’Driscoll • DES:Nelson Coates • CAST: Denzel Washington, Melissa Leo, John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood

It’s rare to see a mainstream studio release as wildly schizophrenic as Robert Zemeckis’ maddeningly inconsistent Flight. It constantly flits between genres – serious addiction drama, black comedy, wacky stoner comedy, legal thriller, romance, aviation disaster thriller etc… For a while, the film’s offbeat tone is interesting, and threatens to do surprising things with its familiar setups. Alas, the film doesn’t coalesce into a satisfying whole.

 

Denzel Washington plays pilot Whip Whitaker, whom we meet indulging in post-coital alcohol and cocaine right before he takes command of a commercial flight. After sneaking a few more vodkas when the plane reaches cruising altitude, he decides to leave things in the hands of his co-pilot (Brian Geraghty) while he takes a nap. Unfortunately, a mechanical failure sends the plane into freefall and Whip is forced to make a miraculous emergency landing.

 

Said emergency landing is the film’s major set piece, and it represents the film’s first-act inciting incident. And it’s wonderfully directed – tense, coherent and surprising. Indeed it might be one of the better spectacle moments from recent mainstream cinema. It’s afterwards that the film shoots off in altogether less accomplished directions.

 

Despite the media hailing him as a hero, Whip is forced to confront his substance abuse issues after a toxicology report shows-up a predictably high blood alcohol level. Lawyer Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle) is called in by the pilot’s union to try and protect Whip during the inevitable investigation. Meanwhile, Whip also meets recovering addict Nicole (Kelly Reilly), and the two hit it off. Oh, and John Goodman plays a cartoonish drug dealer for some reason.

 

The fact that the film descends into broad farce every time Goodman is on screen is indicative of one of Flight’s major problems – it simply never settles on what it wants to be. As Whitaker’s situation becomes more desperate, and his addiction situation spirals out of control, it finally seems as if we’re about to be granted a familiar yet dark and uncompromising addiction study. Whit increasingly seems beyond help, and appears destined to be consumed by his self-destructive nature. Is it possible that the film is going to bypass convention and give us a genuinely devastating look at substance addiction?

 

Given the presence of militant sentimentalist Zemeckis (he of Forrest Gump and Castaway fame – Back to the Future is but a distant memory) in the director’s chair, it’s no spoiler to say that the film wearily conforms to crowd-pleasing formula. What’s most disappointing about this is that the film would undoubtedly have been more interesting had it tackled its themes and characters in a more confrontational manner. A climactic courtroom scene, for example, teases a potentially provocative and amoral ending. A redemptive reversal, alas, guarantees there’s no such luck.

 

The cast do relatively good job given the limiting material, and the magnificent first act set piece and a few moments of brief insight mean Flight is by no means worthless. It’s well-paced – 140 minutes fly by, if you’ll excuse the pun – and some moments of dark comedy are genuinely amusing. But a crippling identity crisis and reversion to sentimentality ensure that overall it is so much less satisfying than it could have, should have, would have been. Flight all-too-often comes crashing down when it should really be soaring.

Stephen McNeice

15A (see IFCO website for details)

138 mins

Flight is released on 1st February 2013

Flight – Official Website

 

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Cinema Review: Safe House

cuff him boys

DIR: Daniel Espinosa  • WRI: David Guggenheim • PRO: Scott Stuber • DOP: Oliver Wood • ED: Richard Pearson • DES: Brigitte Broch • Cast: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Robert Patrick

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife Denzel Washington is an undisputed badass. From his role in Training Day, to his portrayal of a tormented bodyguard in Man on Fire, Denzel’s film career of badassery includes a long list of highlights such as tricking a young cop into smoking crack or sticking explosives up a bad man’s bottom.

So as one might imagine, Safe House does not see D.W., doing neurotic Woody Allen-esque monologues to camera, confessing his love to Katherine Heigl from a hot air balloon, nor does it see him learn deeply, poignant life lessons while caring for his estranged, infirmed mother. As an awesome 115 minutes adventure, Safe House delivers explosives, car chases and shoot-em-ups and some darn fine performances to boot.

Ryan Reynolds plays Matt Weston, a young and dashingly handsome American Agent stationed Capetown whose uneventful job it is to guard a CIA safe house. His frustratingly quiet routine is brought to an explosive end when rouge CIA traitor (and all-round badass) Tobin Frost turns himself in to a nearby American Consulate.

When ‘houseguest’ Tobin arrives on his doorstep, an ambush ensues leaving Matt the only agent left alive who can bring him in. As the cheeky yanks aren’t supposed to have a base in the area, Matt is forced to remain off the grid with his prisoner until head office (Brendan Gleeson and Vera Farmiga) can figure out a way to bring them in.

Overall the plot is strong and pacey. Also the unlikely budding bromance of two devilishly handsome male leads manages to squeeze in some lovely and unexpected emotional depth. So what if Safe House doesn’t break the mould when it comes to espionage(ish) action flicks – it certainly fills it nicely. A bit of a disclaimer though, those who suffer from seasickness would want to make sure they take their tablets beforehand; the jarring shaky-cam can get a bit much, especially during the action bits.

 Gemma Creagh

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)

Safe House is released on 24th February 2012

Safe House – Official Website

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