Saturday, September 27, 2014

Denzel Equalizes Outcomes

Guest rush review written and proofread by Tray Oldman and approved by the Author for your bemusement.

Not too many years ago, film buffs may remember that Denzel Washington was verifiable box office gold – tough, handsome, and the ladies loved him.  This was the unflappably charming Denzel of Courage Under Fire, of Training Day, of Man On Fire, of American Gangster, and of many other delightful fan favorites.

Now the guy is tired, moody, and out of shape, and unless you’re Liam Neeson, in Hollywood, you don’t want to be that guy.  The last truly successful blockbuster Denzel headed was a 2010 action thriller, based on true events, about a runaway train, the evil corporate goons who operate it, and the two disenchanted but eventually mutually respectful heroes who have to literally stop it in its tracks before it causes an explosion the size of the Chrysler Building.

An astonishingly faithful condensation of Unstoppable into a two-minute time frame.  It’s like a needle in the Chrysler building.

If Unstoppable’s name was meant to be a subliminal innuendo about the frenetic nature of its camera work, never has a movie been more accurately titled, as there isn’t a single shot in the movie where the camera isn’t making massive zooming cuts or spinning around conductor Denzel’s head.  Like seriously half of the movie must consist of the same circling cabin shot, and as a result it will exert one of two negative physical effects on viewers, inducing them either to vomit or to sleep but never to actual enjoyment.  Fortunately for this critic, I managed to fall asleep before the final half-hour exacted the final toll of my health, which is why the Author has reluctantly forbidden me from reviewing that picture for this guest post.

Denzel’s latest starring turn is also of an unstoppable sort but is realized on a national or even global scale, playing out more like a political thriller or horror film than his various other popular projects.  He plays a nameless activist in the internet era identified only as the title character of “The Equalizer,” an advocate of absolute social equity for all regardless of their income, socioeconomic background, religion, gender, political ideology, legal status, or anything else really.  In fact, if the Equalizer were to have his way, there wouldn’t be any differences among the populace in any of these factors, as everyone would be elevated to the wonderfully mediocre pedestal of sameness.

By amplifying historically successful initiatives like the War on Poverty and the minimum wage and by expanding redistributive programs such as need-based welfare or graduated tax brackets which have increased the labor force while reducing incentives for sustained dependency, the revolutionary figurehead advises that the American government could easily eradicate class conflict altogether and ensure that everybody earns the fair and living wage that human rights experts insist to be their human right.

The Equalizer also presses for the abolition of religious strife and wars, proposing reasonably enough that government just get rid of religion entirely or render the laws such that no religion has the freedom to exercise any beliefs that another may find offensive and/or contradictory to its own beliefs, e.g. the universality of marriage rights, a inextricable doctrinal position of the great western religion of Secularism. Just so does he call for an end to disparity in the privileges enjoyed by the sexes, on the one hand by making gender reassignment surgery free to criminals of any charge but on the other by fundamentally transforming the United States’ faulty notion of one’s sexuality as something rooted in one’s nature rather than personal choice.  No longer he says will the nation stand divided by partisan bickering, quite simply because America will no longer suffer from the disadvantages posed by a two-party system.

What with all the political posturing that pervades The Equalizer’s script, some may wonder whether the film even has a plot to speak of nestled in between the numerous protracted philosophical monologues. Literary scholars often contend that a plot must possess at least a trio of things, those being rising action, a climax, and a (usually satisfying, life-affirming) denouement.  In all these areas, but especially the last, The Equalizer will probably dissatisfy the vast majority of moviegoers, but where the film soars is its complex portrayal of a utilitarian and selfless reformer who pursues fairness and uniformity above all else.

The talented Chloe Grace Moretz of Kick Ass, Kick Ass 2, the Carrie remake, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Hugo plays the adopted daughter of Washington’s Equalizer, a freespirited woman of reproductive age beset by religious extremists in her workplace and the insurance companies.  The Equalizer passionately dotes upon Julia and constantly makes reference to her in his publicly streamed addresses, usually in the context of articulating his care for one social issue or another, as in:
“The fascists want to get rid of funding for charitable organizations like Planned Parenthood that offer women the resources and services they need to decapitate, poison, or crush their unborn children.  I think that’s a bad idea.  I want my daughter to control her own health care choices.”

“If my daughter makes a mistake, I don’t want her punished with a baby.”
“I’ve got a daughter and I expect her to be treated just like anybody’s sons.  I want to make sure that my daughter is getting the same chances as men.  I do not want her paid less for doing the same job as some guys are doing.  When she has children – which I wouldn’t force her into doing under any circumstances – I want to make sure they are not having to quit their jobs, or, you know, in some other fashion be hampered, because we don’t have the kinds of policies in this country that support them.”
“There have been times where Julia and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we’re talking about her friends, and somehow it wouldn’t dawn on Julia that her homosexual and lesbian and transsexual friends and their parents should be treated any differently, even though they are, technically speaking, different.  It doesn’t make sense to her and, frankly, if it doesn’t make sense to a progressively minded, forward-thinking, marijuana-smoking hipster like herself, it probably doesn’t make any sense, like, period.”
“As a father to an extraordinarily marginalized and victimized and, I admit, totally doable girl, the epidemic of sexual assaults in human nature and especially on college campuses is especially concerning to me and moves me to think about ways we can, you know, non-genetically modify that nature or at least persuade said girls into admitting the assaults we all know to have happened.”

You get it: the main conflict of The Equalizer revolves around Denzel’s literally and metaphorically bloody efforts to protect Chloe from the demons of the American republic.  But the winning asset of the film isn’t its storytelling but Washington’s breathtaking, Oscar-worthy performance as an idealistic and manipulative orator who continually deceives the masses into thinking that whatever goes against their interests is actually for their own good.  The Equalizer speaks with a honeyed and arresting voice that would seem incongruous with the color of his skin, at least to those unknowingly prejudiced fans of his who instinctively expect a certain ungainliness in the rhetorical tendencies of the African-American and consequently feel obligated to exalt the black man whenever he overcomes his natural inferiority and sounds halfway articulate.

Director Antoine Fuqua shows the Equalizer to be an avid scholar of the works of Ernest Hemingway, to such a degree that he regularly cites passages from “The Old Man and the Sea” and models his public speaking in large part off of that book’s seemingly pedestrian and unrefined but deeply communicative and compact English.  Much like Hemingway’s prose, Washington’s speeches will resonate with the common man in their simplicity of language but will also enthrall wannabe intellectuals with their carefully crafted illusion of depth and substance, when in reality he very rarely has any statistics or logical coherency behind his sweeping ideological assertions.

The Equalizer is a high-octane and undeniably relevant political drama that’s certain to end not only the impotency of Denzel’s career but hopefully of congressional gridlock over quite possibly the defining civil rights issue of our time, whether we’ll allow the iron hand of aristocracy to tighten its grip over our country’s political future or whether we’ll enact meaningful legislation/executive orders/court rulings to rid the blight of inequality from our country’s face.

Every American owes it to themselves to experience this powerful allegory.  If you don’t, then you can only be a racist, a bigot, and a Republican.  It really is as simple as that.

Grade rating: As much as I would like to delegate this movie an impressive 3.75 popcorns out of 4, to do so would be unfair to the hundreds of other honorable movies which haven’t received the same score.  So I won’t.


  1. When I first read this review, I thought, "You didn't write that...somebody else, wrote that!"

    1. 'Tis true. Somebody else... made this blog post happen.


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