I love Denzel Washington. I just wanted to make this declaration right off the bat. He is a perfect actor who knows how to control any scene that he’s in. I cannot remember a movie in which he did not give a less than really good performance.
In my opinion, the second-best type of Denzel is the action movie Denzel, because there are few things better than when he is a no nonsense, ass-kicking legend that is unparalleled by anybody else in the entire movie. That is the Denzel we have gotten through both of the ‘Equalizer’ movies, a glorious showcase of Denzel at his finest. My favorite thing about the ‘Equalizer’ franchise is that he seems so unbothered throughout both movies. HIs expression never changes. He acts in a business-like manner, almost like the task of brutally murdering Russian gangsters or dirty CIA agents is as menial as hole punching at stack of documents at work.
What is constant through both movies is that Denzel only ever acts out of retribution. Fittingly, the titles of the movie already clued the watcher into this theme. Whenever he sees a character that has been wronged or hurt, he seeks out retribution against the perpetrator. It’s a morality system that has been used for millennia, going back to Hammurabi’s code, an ancient Babylonian law system from circa 1750 BC. An eye for an eye is the famous saying spurred from these laws. But in this case, Denzel’s character acts as an agent of “good,” acting as a protector/guardian angel, but one that kills.
In the first movie, Denzel befriends an underage prostitute, giving her hope that she can one day escape the life of sex worker. When she is beaten by her Russian pimp, Denzel responds accordingly by murdering every single person involved in the Russian crime syndicate, bringing it to its knees. I mean, like everyone involved. It is awe-inspiring, horrifying, and beautiful all at the same time. In the second ‘Equalizer’, his best friend and colleague is murdered by thugs in Belgium. After determining that his old CIA team is responsible for the her death, he promises to kill each and every one of them. Here is a real quote from Denzel during this interaction.
“I will not stop until I kill each and every one of you. My only regret is that I only get to do it once.”
He then gives each of them playful finger guns in an almost prophetical nature, and then saunters off to take one of their kids to school. Absolute savagery.
What is the most important, but underrated part of the ‘Equalizer’ franchise is the idea of home-field advantage. In the sports world, there is this level of mysticism around playing in your home stadium. The idea is that the knowledge of the area and the support from the home territory provides a distinct advantage over your opponent. For example, the Golden State Warriors almost never lose at the Oracle Arena, their home court. Away teams have trouble playing at Arrowhead Stadium or Centurylink Field due to the ridiculous loud crowd noise. Teams that travel to Denver to play have trouble adjusting to the elevation change and the reduced amount of oxygen.
In ‘The Equalizer’, the climax occurs in Denzel’s place of work, a glorified Lowe’s or Home Depot. He’s being hunted by a Russian death squad, when he’s outnumbered six to one. The important thing is that he is the only one that knows his surroundings. He shuts off the lights in the hardware store, sets a ridiculous number of traps and triggers that would make that clown from ‘Saw’ jealous, and arms himself with weapons only found in the store. He dismantles the crew sent to kill him with a relatively small amount of effort. It was easy not only because he’s Denzel Washington and automatically a more dangerous person than you, but because it was his area, his space. He had been working there for a while, and he knew it better than any of those goons.
The idea of home was a big part of ‘The Equalizer 2’. Earlier in the movie, Dave York (played by Pedro Pascal), a member of Denzel’s old team, asks him about his old seaside hometown. He hadn’t been there since his wife died. However, knowing that he would have a distinct advantage over the other assassins. With an oncoming hurricane approaching the northeast, Denzel’s character (Robert McCall), set up shop in the seaside town.
The representation of home at this point is overt. His wife’s bakery is still there, as well as his old home. In order to kill them all, he laid numerous traps throughout the town, making him virtually untouchable to the others. In combination with the hurricane, bringing gale force winds and surging waves, he easily disposed of them in three ways: a harpoon gun in a fishing shop, stabbing one after distracting him with pictures of Susan (the best friend who was murdered), and blowing up the bakery. He finally stabs Dave and pushes him off of the tower that he was situated on for sniping purposes.
I couldn’t imagine a more fitting ending to the movie. It highlights the importance of returning home, and the power that being home has. As Denzel rested finally, looking out of the window at his old home, he is at peace with his decisions, his actions, and his life. Everything had been equalized.