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If you have ever taken a class on Shakespeare, no doubt you have heard the saying that death is the great equalizer. Well this week, that saying changes to the following: Denzel is the great equalizer. Director Antoine Fuqua’s vision of the popular 1980’s television show hits the big screen with Academy Award winner Denzel Washington starring in the title role. There is a certain level of expectation that comes with seeing an actor like Washington in a film like this and we all know that somehow, when the book is written, we will not be disappointed.
Before we get too into the upcoming flick, let us first go back to the 1980s. It was a decade which saw the beginning of Denzel Washington’s rise to prominence. Starting with the little known comedy Carbon Copy (1981), one of Washington’s earliest Hollywood film roles, he would move on from there to decidedly more serious and dramatic fare, for which he is best known. Films like, Cry Freedom (1987), The Mighty Quinn (1989) and Glory (1989), a film which won him his first Oscar, were clear examples of the talent Washington possessed. He was just getting started as he would go on to have a prosperous career, which endures to this day.
In the land of television, Washington also popped up during the 1982 medical drama ensemble television series St. Elsewhere, which many view as a predecessor to shows like ER, Grey’s Anatomy, and Chicago Hope. St. Elsewhere, like Carbon Copy, is a little known aspect of Washington’s work, having been swept under the rug as it were, in favor of the dramatic and later, more action driven work of Washington’s career. Nevertheless, it does exist.
Elsewhere on television during the 1980s was a show called The Equalizer. The original television show, on which this new film is loosely based, ran for four seasons between the years of 1985 and 1989. The show has been highly regarded by critics and fans alike as unique, classy and very well put together with a gritty, more realistic feel. The show seemed right in the vein of other popular shows of the time like, The A-Team or Knight Rider, but what set it apart from those shows, with its almost scientific blend of crime thriller, espionage, detective and mystery elements, was the noticeably darker tone of the show, and of course, Edward Woodward, who played the original Robert McCall.
Woodward was an English actor who, after graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and beginning his career on the stage, expanded to much wider attention in the British television spy drama Callan as the title character, David Callan, a reluctant professional assassin. The show ran for four seasons from 1967 to 1972 and before the end of it all, Woodward would win the British Television Award for Best Actor for Callan. This would seem suitable preparation for playing another reluctant hero thirteen years after Callan. Enter: The Equalizer.
The role of Robert McCall, a retired intelligence agent turned altruistic private investigator, who helps people equalize their odds, was a role that would take Woodward to heights of popularity that would surpass anything he experienced with Callan. Fans of the show, who expressed various doubts about a fifty-something year old actor not looking the part of a menacing former secret agent, quickly warmed up to Woodward as the titular character, praising his powerful acting ability and nuanced performance. The show also boasted one of the coolest title cards. It was bold, yet simple. A shadowy figure standing in front of a car with a misty background. An image like that tells you this guy means business.
You might be curious as to where you have seen this title card for the television show in recent years if you have not seen it in syndication on channels like USA or A&E. There is a scene in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, in which “Mad” Max Belfort goes ballistic when a phone call interrupts his favorite show and that show is none other than The Equalizer. In The Wolf of Wall Street, we only got a taste of McCall on the show. This week though, we will get a full experience of a new incarnation of McCall in another fifty-something year old actor who looks like he can still deal out substantial damage to the darker forces of crime.
Anyone worried about Denzel Washington’s casting being a mistake, I suggest taking a look at films like the classic revenge-themed Man on Fire (2004), the high-concept thrill ride Déjá-Vu (2006), or even Ricochet (1991), a picture dating further back in Washington’s filmography. There are of course a host of other flicks that could be added to this list, most notably the obligatory Training Day (2001), but the point is that Washington is more than worthy an actor to live up to the reputation of the television show and the pairing of he and director Fuqua, should be enough to take the concept of The Equalizer to new places while infusing it with a different flavor.
There is definitely a high level of excitement in how it will all turn out come the end of the week. Be sure to check Entertainment Fuse’s Movie Reviews section for the verdict on The Equalizer.
Denzel Washington puts the bad-guys down this Friday, September 26th.