Film: The Equalizer

"I've done some bad things in my life, Nicolai. Things I'm not proud of. I promised someone that I love very much that I would never go back to being that person. But for you I'm gonna make an exception. You asked me what I saw when I looked at you. What do you see when you look at me?"
Robert McCall

The Equalizer is a 2014 film directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Denzel Washington. It is a remake of the 1980s show which starred Edward Woodward in the titular role.


This film provides examples of:

  • And the Adventure Continues: The end of the movie has Robert sitting in his usual place at the diner, but this time he's on his laptop, having decided to offer his skills to those who are in need of help.
  • Arc Words: Seems to be "Who are you?" as multiple of McCall's targets ask when being beaten by him, including Nicolai at the climax.
  • Badass Bookworm: Robert is seen working his way through the "Top 100 Books You Must Read" list.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Nicolai wears a very fine suit throughout the movie.
  • Bald of Awesome: Robert is seen shaving his hair at the beginning of the movie and spends the entirety of it completely bald. He utterly destroys The Mafiya.
  • Bald of Evil: The Boss in Mook Clothing that fights Robert in the climax is a bald man.
  • Battle in the Rain: Although more like "death in the rain", it starts raining sprinklers inside the Home Mart due to the explosives in the microwaves finishing off the last mook when McCall kills Teddy in the climax of the final battle.
  • Big Bad: Vladimir Pushkin, who actually spends most of the movie as a Bigger Bad, while his chief enforcer Teddy has a lot more screen time, making Teddy a Dragon-in-Chief. Pushkin doesn't make a full appearance until the epilogue.
  • Bland-Name Product: "Home Mart", which is supposed to resemble real-life hardware stores like Lowe's or Home Depot (seeing that these scenes were filmed in a latter)
  • Blasphemous Boast: The Russian mobster Andrei states that he believes more in his Heckler-Koch than in God.
  • Bloodier and Gorier/Darker and Edgier: So very much so compared to the original series it's based on.
    • To wit: a typical plot in the CBS series has McCall pulling an elaborate mindgame with his associates helping him, one that usually forces the guilty party to incriminate themselves and sometimes leaves them at the mercy of those they've wronged. In the movie, McCall simply takes out everyone in his path personally, using such delightful tactics as a shotglass to the eye socket, corkscrew to the jaw, a barb wire noose, a tree trimmer through the neck, and gunning someone down with a high-powered nailgun.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: The only person to give Robert any sort of trouble in a fight is one random guy toward the end, and this mostly comes from tanking Roberts hits.
  • Brick Joke: When McCall is helping Ralphie lose weight, he tells him that one day he might have to drag his 190-lb ass out of a burning building. Later, when McCall is wounded after an intense brawl, Ralphie comes back to help drag him to safety.
    Ralphie: A buck ninety my ass.
  • Broken Ace: Yes, McCall is a Jack-of-All-Trades but when it comes down to it, he is harboring a lot of internal problems including what appears to be OCD.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Subverted When Robert inquires Slavi about Alina getting beaten up, the latter replies that her name doesn't ring a bell. But later in the coversation he seems to remember who she is.
  • Children Are Innocent: Invoked during the burglar scene. As Robert tries to find a way to deal with the criminal, he watches a boy and his mother going into the store. To avoid a bloodshed and possibly their deaths, McCall advises Jenny to hand her ring to the thief so he would leave.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Masters is particularly fond of these, almost to the point of it being the only curse word he uses.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: It is actually Robert who employs one of these! He handicuffs Masters inside his own car and proceeds to suffocate him with the car fumes.
  • Corrupt Cop: The Mafiya employs three of these in the movie: Remar, Pederson and Masters. Remar and Pederson end up being killed, but Masters tries to reform.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Robert easily dispatches five Russian mobsters early in the film, in 19 seconds. (He was aiming for 16 seconds.)
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Boiled down, McCall wipes out the Russian mob in retaliation for... one of their own escorts being beat into the hospital.
    • This is arguable. Robert was more than willing to simply pay for the girl's freedom and leave the mobsters be. When they refuse this offer and counter with "$10,000 will buy you a month with her, have fun." This is when Robert makes the decision to end the threat to his friend at the root. Note the part where Robert opens and closes the door to the room several times, you can almost hear his internal argument. The rest of the mob would have also been safe had they not bothered to search for who had killed their men. Robert considered the situation over to that point and only responded so thoroughly when he realized that this was the only way he was going to be safe.
  • The Dragon: Teddy for Pushkin.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Nicolai flat-out states during his meeting with McCall that he doesn't understand what he can gain from being sentimental, believing it to be a weakness. Also, Pushkin doesn't understand why Robert would come to kill him and tries to bribe him into leaving, to no avail.
  • Evil Counterpart: Nikolai to Robert. Both are Dangerously Genre Savvy and very, very good at killing people. The difference is that Nikolai is The Sociopath, while McCall is motivated by caring about the people around him.
  • Eye Scream: This is how Robert kills the first Mook in the whole movie (and we get to see the aftermath in some autopsy photos later on)
  • Faking the Dead: Robert retired from his previous career by pretending to have been killed in a car bomb.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The Russian mobsters tend to act like friendly faces, including Teddy.
  • For Want of a Nail: If the Russian mob pimp hadn't beat the call girl, or at least accepted McCall's money, nobody would have died. Basically if McCall is offering you a deal, you take it and run the hell away.
  • Genre Savvy: Robert is never fooled by his enemies. When he is on a restaurant, a man disguised as an electric company worker sits in another table. McCall quickly calls him out on his failed disguise.
    Robert: Is it just you, or are we waiting for someone else?
    Man: I'm sorry. What?
    Robert: Your hands. If you really worked the power lines your hands wouldn't look like that. I know we gotta be waiting for somebody else.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Robert tends to offer a Last-Second Chance, resorting to violence only after this is refused. This is a common theme in the movie. Robert always offers a way out.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Pops up a couple of times, like McCall using a small hammer against a Home Mart robber or whatever he did to Teddy's bodyguard, but we don't get to see the moment Robert turns on the hand drill at the Home Mart, just the expected result.
  • Gratuitous Russian: Robert is able to speak Russian, and does so when dealing with Slavi and Nicolai.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: He can also speak Spanish, as seen when he talks to Ralphie's mother at her restaurant.
  • Improbable Weapon User: McCall finds innovate uses for a wine corkscrew, among other things.
  • Improvised Weapon: Robert's preference, especially in the last act when he uses the contents of the Home Mart he works at.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Alina is a teenage girl who befriends McCall, a man decades older than her.
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: Averted. McCall cuts and bruises his knuckles while taking out the pimps, and Teddy is seen picking glass out of his knuckles after beating an Irish mobster to death.
    Coworker "What happened to your hand?
  • Let Me Tell You a Story: During Robert and Nicolai's meeting at a restaurant, he tells the mobster a story of a Russian man who adopted a poor kid in his family of already five sons. The father showed love and compassion for the kid in spite of all of his misdeeds, until one day the man and his wife were murdered and some possessions stolen, presumably by the boy.
  • The Mafiya: The primary villains.
  • Mook Horror Show: The last big action sequence in the film features Robert stalking Nikolai's men through the Home Mart where he works after they've taken his co-workers hostage, and dispatching them one by one in various gruesome ways.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Masters has a serious Heel Realization when he realizes that he has gone from good (or at least well-meaning) cop to a common thug.
  • Nice Guy: McCall is well liked by his fellow colleagues at Home Mart.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Nicolai delivers a massively brutal one to an Irish mobster that continues for some time after he is already dead. It makes even the Corrupt Cop Masters uncomfortable and gets him to call out Nicolai on such a needless action.
  • Noodle Incident: After the burglar takes the till and then the Jenny's grandmother's ring, Robert tells her not to resist, since it's not worth losing her life over it. Later, after giving the police the information he has, Robert calmly takes a sledgehammer from the shelf and leaves. Later, the woman finds the ring in her cash drawer, as Robert is calmly cleaning the hammer before returning it to the shelf. You fill in the rest.
  • One-Man Army: Robert is just one man fighting against lots of Russian mobsters. He wins.
  • Precision F-Strike: In one of his rare moments of swearing on the movie, Nicolai tells Pushkin (in Russian: "Go fuck yourself."
  • Product Placement:
    • The film is produced by Sony (through Columbia Pictures), and isn't keen on letting you forget that fact.
    • McCall is clearly using Craigslist] at the end of the film, while setting up his Vigilante Man occupation.
  • Psycho for Hire: Nicolai became a private mercenary after the fall of the Soviet Union and is now hired by Pushkin to hunt down Robert.
  • Psychotic Smirk: When Nicolai is not keeping his menacing frown, he sports one of these for a small time.
  • Race Lift: Robert McCall was portrayed by white British actor Edward Woodward in the original series, and black American actor Denzel Washington in the film.
  • Retired Badass: Robert McCall. The movie is about him coming out of retirement.
  • The Sociopath: Susan describes Nicolai as a "sociopath with a business card". The description is quite apt, with his utter coldness and blatant disregard of caring about other people.
  • Sherlock Scan: Used by McCall in a weaponized format, similarly to Robert Downey, Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes movies.
  • Shirtless Scene: Nicolai gets one when he is talking to Pushkin on the phone.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Masters is noticeably more foul mouthed than anyone on the cast, spewing the F-word roughly every sentence.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Compared to other mobsters and corrupt officers who regularly curse and shout, Nicolai speaks in a low, faux-polite tone of voice and only uses one expletive on the whole movie. It doesn't make him any less evil.
  • Spiritual Successor: A badass played by Denzel Washington? Check. A young girl? Check. Villains attack said girl only to invite the wrath of Washington's character? YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT! Hell, they might as well rename Robert McCall to John W. Creasy.
    • An isolated incident prompts a guy to kill a some mafia thugs, but then the guy decides to expand his scope and take down pretty much the entire organization with his vigilante justice. The cops at first suspect the deaths were a result a mob war. The mob guys bring in a special enforcer to handle the vigilante. Double the number of vigilantes, and it's The Boondock Saints.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: We are treated to a glorious slow-mo shot of Robert blowing up the entire harbor and all the petrol tankers in it. Later invoked to point out why you should never put butane gas tanks in the microwave.
  • Super OCD: It's not explicit, but McCall shows traits of OCD here and there. The most extreme example of this being his self-timed beatdowns of the enemy.
  • Tattooed Crook: During Nicolai's Shirtless Scene, there is arguably more tattoos than skin on his torso. Pushkin sports a lot of tattoos as well.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Detectives Gilly and Harris are always seen together. When not working with Nicolai, the two harass Ralphie's mother at the restaurant, demanding money from her. When Robert finds them, they threaten to kill him in the alley, only to be beaten up and forced to hand back the money.
  • Unflinching Walk: After he blows up the harbor and all petrol tankers in there.
  • Vigilante Man: McCall is basically doing this throughout the entire movie, only to...
  • Visual Pun: One of the books Robert is reading is The Old Man and the Sea. One of the scenes at the end of he movie is Robert (an old man) on a beach staring at the wide sea.
  • We Help the Helpless: At the end of the movie, Robert has apparently decided to make a habit of this as he's seen responding to an online forum post asking for his help.
  • Who Are You?: They seem to be Arc Words in this movie; see above.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: After Masters has his Heel Realization, McCall tells him it is not too late to turn his life around.
  • You Have Failed Me: Implied to be the reason Remar and Pederson were killed. Nicolai tells them to find Robert or he would find someone who could. A few scenes later, Susan reveals to McCall that the two were killed by Nicolai.