September 25, 2014

blog 2014 equalizer poster

I’ve never been much of a mathematician but even I can tell the numbers in The Equalizer don’t quite add up.

You see, Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) understandably takes umbrage when Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), the sweet young hooker who frequents McCall’s favourite all-night diner, ends up in the hospital after a vicious beating from some vile Russian mobsters.

When his attempts to negotiate a reasonable solution fall on deaf ears, McCall does what he does best: he kills the absolute hell out of the bad guys.

And when more violent Russians come to town, well, McCall kills them too.

Don’t get me wrong, anyone who beats up Chloe Grace Moretz deserves everything that’s coming to them.

But as The Equalizer goes on its merrily brutal way, it begins to feel like the movie would be more accurately titled Denzel Washington Slaughters Everyone. (A title that would certainly have me lining up at the box-office, by the way.)

"You'll have to speak up, I'm nearly 60 years old. Also, I'm about to get stabby"

“You’ll have to speak up, I’m nearly 60 years old. Also, I’m about to get stabby”

I have to say, I really enjoyed The Equalizer, and not only because it finds some inventively nasty ways for Washington’s McCall to take out the trash.

Loosely based on the ‘80s TV series, which starred a steely Edward Woodward as McCall, it nimbly walks the line separating ridiculous and ridiculously awesome (okay, it sometimes stumbles into ridiculous territory), and occasionally displays a subtlety and intelligence that is most welcome.

Its rock-solid foundation is Washington, who imbues his subdued, secretive superman with some extremely interesting shading.

Looks like someone's gonna be doin' some equalizin'

Looks like someone’s gonna be doin’ some equalizin’

McCall has a murky past – it’s hinted he did the government’s dirty work, and was very good at it – and a guilty conscience, and he’s attempting to make amends by living a quiet, almost monastic life, working by day at a Bunnings-style hardware store and spending sleepless nights reading classic books.

Of course, that all changes after he singlehandedly wipes out that bunch of high-powered Russian gangsters, resulting in the arrival in town of ruthless enforcer Teddy (a vividly evil Marton Csokas).

The funny thing is, he only wanted the Chinese symbol for 'courage' when he went in

The funny thing is, he only wanted the Chinese symbol for ‘courage’ when he went in

It’s a bit of a rush when The Equalizer breaks out the big guns (and any other device that becomes a lethal weapon in McCall’s hands), but the movie is equally effective when it’s a cat-and-mouse game between two well-matched adversaries.

Training Day director Antoine Fuqua gives these scenes a taut intensity, making them just as gripping as the sequences where McCall demonstrates his savage skill-set.

The only problem here is, the character does such a definitive job of eliminating his enemies this time around that you have to wonder how the stakes will be raised in the inevitable sequel.

By the way, there’s something missing from The Equalizer – Stewart Copeland’s utterly boss theme tune from the original series. Don’t sweat it, kids, I got you covered.


September 25, 2014

blog 2014 sin city poster

Welcome to Basin City, where every side of the tracks is the wrong side of the tracks!

Here dying is as easy as living, killing is as easy as breathing, there’s a stereotype on every street corner and the local currency is the cliché.

Ah, but at least one resident of Basin City has a dark sense of humour, because they’ve snuck out to the city limits and scratched out the first two letters on the sign welcoming newcomers to town. Ha-ha-ha! Get it? Sin City!

Yeah, we get it.

You may have guessed by now that I didn’t think much of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, the sequel to the hard-boiled 2005 comic-book adaptation Sin City. And you’d have guessed correctly.

The first Sin City, co-directed by the increasingly hacky Robert Rodriguez and the increasingly nutty comic-book writer-artist Frank Miller, was no masterpiece – in fact, it was a slick film-noir knockoff that lamely attempted to shock with sex and violence when it wasn’t striking silly poses and muttering cheap one-liners.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, once again co-helmed by Rodriguez and Miller, makes its predecessor look like a masterpiece.

The film’s four vaguely intersecting stories take place on the mean streets inhabited by the likes of grotesque brawler Marv (Mickey Rourke, wearing disfiguring make-up…or is he?) and traumatised stripper Nancy (Jessica Alba, continuing her stellar run of mediocre performances) and the corridors of power commanded by the evilest man alive, Senator Roark (Powers Boothe, whose suave bastardry is one of the movie’s few virtues).

Don't be looking so pleased with yourself there, Mick. You're in a SIN CITY movie

Don’t be looking so pleased with yourself there, Mick. You’re in a SIN CITY movie

There are a few familiar faces from the first Sin City – the afore-mentioned Marv and Nancy, not to mention a snoozy cameo from the ever-uninterested Bruce Willis – but there are also a few new kids in town, such as cocky gambler Johnny (a well-cast Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and femme fatale Ava Lord (Eva Green).

The titular dame to kill for, Ava may be the best reason to see this movie, and not just because of the character’s disdain for clothing.

Shot through the heart/And you're to blame

Shot through the heart/And you’re to blame

It’s because Green finds the sweet spot between larger-than-life performance and genuine acting, occasionally and fleetingly turning this leaden junk into solid gold.

Without her and a few others, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For would be nothing more than a strutting, preening buffoon of a movie, a spineless wimp posing as a tough guy.