The Equalizer 2

The Equalizer 2. I hope they just quietly let this franchise slip into obsolescence. Too much going on here plot-wise, and this edition of McCall seems to have a haranguing Cosby-esque vibe where the first one had more charm. I think the highlight for me was seeing Donald Cerrone’s bit part.

Inside Man

Inside Man. I like that you can hear the basic summary (detective vs. bank robber/hostage-taker)… but what you see is a little bit smarter and not as interested in basic genre trappings. On the other hand, it wanders when you might want a little more spark and plausibility. Ebert says it well: “It’s not that the movie is hiding something, but that when it’s revealed, it’s been left sitting too long at room temperature.”

The Equalizer

The Equalizer. Average, with a few bright points here and there. I love the diner scenes. They build Denzel’s character as the precise, exacting, confident type, but I like the hints of compulsive behavior beyond that. Not just the careful folding of the kitchen towel, or the tea ritual, or the perfectly crisp button-ups, tucked in. There’s the opening and closing the door, flicking the lights on and off, maybe even the car window opening and closing, rearranging the skulls. Nice little wrinkle.

Visually its a mess. It reminded me of the colorfully shifty, dizzying jumps and zooms that Tony Scott used in Man on Fire, except without the thoughtfulness and consistency with mood. Also weakly similar to that movie: there is an art to “walking away slowly from an explosion” scenes, and you have to earn it. You can’t just shove one in the middle of the movie.

I enjoyed the fight scenes. But have to mention something that drove me crazy: the Sherlock Holmes-ian superpower thing in the office brawl. I’m talking about the thing where time is paused or slowed for a moment, where we get to see how the hero analyzes and calculates all the situational details before getting in a rumble – who is where, what weapons they have, the layout of the room. I don’t mind this sort of movie cliché, or this way of making the hero look awesome. That’s fine. What made it frustrating was that the movie had already shown us those details. I assume it was done to heighten the tension beforehand. But it’s draining to show a guy sitting ready with a knife, and then show us Denzel noticing the guy has a knife. I love that stopwatch, though.

All that said: whatever Denzel has, I want it. He’s got charm coming out the ears. And Marton Csokas is awesome.

Man on Fire

Man on Fire. This is the beginning of my Denzel Washington self-education program, as I’ve seen embarrassingly few of his movies, and they were all a long time ago. A guilt-ridden drunk on a revenge mission. Young Dakota Fanning is impossible not to like. And her on-screen friendship with Denzel is fantastic. I really liked the lively, kind of spazzy directing. A rush of colors and cuts, zooms in and out, accelerating and coming to a halt, and how that ties in with characterization and mood. I like the work with the occasional subtitles, too. Interesting that the bullet and the St. Jude medallion come along with sobriety (like AA tokens). Also note the recurring theme of “I’m just a professional” or “I’m just doing my job.” It’s not enough. Cf. Taken, of course.

There is no such thing as tough. There is trained and untrained.