So there's this huge fight after hours inside a giant store that is most definitely not Home Depot and Denzel Washington's character whacks the snot out of some bad-ass killer. The thug looks bug-eyed at Washington's character, chokes out the words, “Who ARE you?” and, in a deep voice, Washington's character hisses, “I'm Batman.”

Okay, that didn't happen, but it should have. Instead of Batman, Washington plays a fellow known as the Equalizer. The Equalizer was a TV series that ran from 1984 – 1989 about an a retired C.I.A. type who helps people in trouble. The man didn't wear a costume, but he certainly wasn't adverse to violence. Why has a 30-year-old crime-action series been adapted for the big screen? According to Wikipedia, the indisputable source of all knowledge, it was announced in 2010 that Russell Crowe was looking to bring the show to theaters with Paul Haggis directing.

That didn't work out, but the next year it was announced that Washington was taking the role with Antoine Fuqua directing. The last time the two paired up was for Training Day in 2001. Washington won an Oscar for his work as a psycho cop in the crime-action movie.

It's easy to see why Washington was attracted to this role. While he can handle anything, he is particularly adept at playing Boy Scouts and crazy people. The Equalizer lets him do both. Robert McCall (Washington) enjoys a quiet life in Boston. He works at a giant store called Home Mart (not Home Depot) and lives in a small, spartan apartment. When he has trouble sleeping he strolls to a local diner, exchanges pleasantries with the regulars and reads a book. What a Boy Scout.

But wait. A nice little teen-age prostitute named Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz) is abused by her Russian pimp. McCall gets involved. Intensely, efficiently, violently involved. How crazy. As a result, the Russians the pimp works for call in a fixer named Teddy (Marton Csokas) to take care of the vigilante. There's your dynamic. McCall stomps the bad guys, the bad guys stomp back and the ante keeps rising.

The action scenes are furious, sadistic and fun to watch. The other parts drag in spots, but that's probably part of the plan — make the viewers squirmy with the set-ups so they'll better appreciate the mayhem. Don't expect anything resembling subtlety from Richard Wenk's screenplay, which I suspect was written with a stubby crayon. Hell, there's actually a scene where McCall walks away from an explosion without altering his pace or looking back. I'm surprised the filmmakers were able to resist the urge to have him say, “I'm too old for this shit.”

All the nonsense would be insufferable were it not in the hands of talented pros. Washington is in his comfort zone, dispensing life lessons when he isn't busy strangling an attacker to death while staring intently into the man's eyes with his head cocked like a curious pup. Csokas makes a juicy villain worthy of our wise, nutty hero. Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo pop up as old colleagues of McCall. Nice to see them. For the most part, Antoine Fuqua makes the story seem to matter, aided by the attractive cinematography of Mauro Fiore.

It is possible that you will become annoyed at Robert McCall's ability to anticipate the movements of others even more efficiently than Macaulay Culkin did in Home Alone (not Home Depot). If that occurs, just remind yourself – quietly, but with assurance, “It's all right. He's Batman.”


The Boxtrolls


Fun animated story from the creator of Coraline and ParaNorman. The odd, underground creatures known as Boxtrolls raised a lost human boy named Eggs (voice of Isaac Hempstead-Wright). The villainous Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) is after the group and Eggs soon ends up reluctantly teamed with an adventurous human girl named Winnifred (Elle Fanning). Entertaining, with a big performance by Kingsley. Would have been more enjoyable if the Boxtrolls had more personality.

Love is Strange


John Lithgow and Alfred Molina play a couple that have been together nearly 40 years. They get married – no big deal now, except to the church that fires Molina for making his “sin” official. Forced to give up their apartment because of the income cut, they end up staying separately with friends (Molina's character with two loving cops) and family (Lithgow's character with his daughter-in-law (Marisa Tomei), her husband and teen son). Low key, smart and anchored by the wonderful lead performances. Look for a full-length review next week on


Ed Johnson-Ott has been NUVO's lead film critic for more than 20 years.

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