Follow TV Tropes

Following

Film / The Equalizer

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/theequalizer_3430.jpg

"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
Advertisement:

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.

A sequel titled The Equalizer 2 was released July 20, 2018.


This film provides examples of:

  • The Ace: There's no skill that McCall needs that he doesn't have, from surveillance to language fluency to first aid to softball.
  • 100% Adoration Rating: Mafia and corrupt cops notwithstanding, McCall is fondly regarded by everyone in his life. He easily befriends people including Alina, is liked and respected by his colleagues at work and evidently had an excellent reputation with his former colleagues in the government. He even manages to appeal to Masters.
  • 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.
  • Advertisement:
  • 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.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: McCall uses a nail gun like a pistol, but nail guns are specifically designed so that they don't fire nails through the air like bullets. They have a second trigger by the barrel that needs to be pressed against a surface before firing.
  • The Atoner: McCall promised his late wife he wouldn't do any more equalizing. After his first kills in the film, he mutters an apology to no one.
  • Ax-Crazy: Behind his Faux Affably Evil facade Nicolai is a complete psychopath. See No-Holds-Barred Beatdown for details.
  • Badass Bookworm: Robert is seen working his way through the "Top 100 Books You Must Read" list.
  • Badass Grandpa: Robert, played by 59-years old Denzel Washington, is mockingly called "dedushka" (Russian for "grandfather") by Slavi. Shortly after, Robert shows his true nature and does quite a number on them. He keeps kicking asses and taking names during the rest of the movie.
  • Advertisement:
  • 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/Beard of Evil: The man that fights Robert in the climax is a bald man with a rather thick beard.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • McCall's plan to take down an entire money-counting house holding what looks like tens of millions of dollars requires that every one of the armed thugs in the place is so loyal to the managing thug that they'll lay down their weapons and submit to being tied up rather than risk their manager getting killed.
    • McCall kills Pushkin by counting on the fact that he would walk over to the flooding sink in his bare feet just in time for the exposed cable to electrify the pool beneath it.
  • Battle in the Rain: The film achieves this trope indoors with a battle under fire sprinklers.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Robert is an overall polite and extremely helpful guy. This doesn't stop him from being utterly brutal and violent in a fight.
  • Big Bad: Vladimir Pushkin, who actually spends most of the movie as a Greater-Scope Villain, 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" looks identical to Home Depot except with a yellow color scheme instead of an orange one. The film was actually shot in a Home Depot.
  • 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. 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.
  • Blood Knight: McCall is established throughout the first act as never sleeping. We first see him already getting ready for work before his alarm clock rings, with his bed made, at 7:30 AM. Later, we see that he walks to a diner after 2:00 AM virtually every night to read and drink tea. The only time we ever see him sleep is immediately after the first time we see him kill people.
  • 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 asks Slavi about Alina getting beaten up, the latter replies that her name doesn't ring a bell. But later in the conversation, 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 handcuffs Masters inside his own car and proceeds to suffocate him with the car fumes.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Robert is this and an Improbable Weapon User. He'll memorize every object in the room around him, and then brutally murder you with it. He'll stab you with a glass shard, drag your face through broken glass, and stab you with your own knife. Justified in that Robert is just a normal human being and physically no longer in his prime so he never gives his opponents the chance to really prepare themselves or fight back. The one instance where he doesn't have surprise on his side and has to fight face to face, well... see Reality Ensues below.
  • 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.
  • Cover Drop: The theatrical poster depicts McCall armed with a nail gun in the midst of rain. This later shows up in the climax when McCall finishes off Teddy.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Robert easily dispatches five Russian mobsters early in the film, in 19 seconds. (He was aiming for 16 seconds.)
  • Doesn't Like Guns: McCall is absolutely deadly without ever using a gun. In the end, the only gun he uses is an industrial nailgun.
  • The Dragon: Nicolai Itchenko/Teddy Rensen for Pushkin.
  • Epigraph: The movie opens up with a quote from Mark Twain: "The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why."
  • Establishing Character Moment: Robert appears to be an average cool guy with some enigmatic past and issues during the first act of the movie. He reveals his lethal nature when he effortlessly wipes the floor with Slavi, his goons and their blood.
  • Everyone Has Standards: McCall is heavily implied to have done highly questionable things during his tenure working in special operations for the United States governments. People who prey on the innocent as well as those abuse their power — especially corrupt cops — disgust him.
  • 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 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.
  • Giant Mook: McCall fist-fights one in the climax.
  • 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.
  • Great Offscreen War: McCall sends information he obtained from a memory stick in Masters' safe deposit box to the local FBI office. The information is a complete list of Pushkin's payroll, including several Congressmen and the Governor. The story is not over with McCall destroying the Russians by any means.
  • Groin Attack: McCall threatens this on Andre so he'll order his mooks to surrender.
  • Heal It with Fire: At one point, McCall treats a bullet wound in his shoulder with a brass doorknob heated up with a blowtorch.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Averted; slienced guns make "clack" noises and are less loud than normal. In one scene, a suppressed submarine gun is highly audible while being fired.
  • Homage: In Nicolai Itchenko's Establishing Character Moment, he echoes the words of another problem solver: "I'm not here to say please. I'm here to tell you what to do."
  • I Have Your Wife: Nicolai takes the entire Home-Mart staff hostage to get Robert to surrender himself. Robert just rescues them instead of going to the meeting place.
  • Implied Death Threat: McCall pushes a glass skull toward the first three gangsters he encounters before killing them all.
  • Improbable Weapon User: McCall finds innovative uses for a wine corkscrew, a power drill, a roll of barbed wire, and a fishing spear, 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?
    Robert I hit it on something stupid.
  • Just a Flesh Wound: Robert is shot and stabbed several times over the course of several days, but none of his injuries seem to bother him, especially once he applies a home remedy.
  • 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.
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: Inverted on two occasions. After locking himself in with them, McCall takes out Slavi and company using only the items available in Slavi's office; and at the end, he confronts Teddy and his goons in the big-box hardware store he works at, and proceeds to use the entire contents of the store against them. The only time McCall actually uses a gun is to force one of Slavi's enforcers to shoot his partner.
  • 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.
    Masters: I was a good cop!! ...I was a good cop...
  • Nail 'Em: McCall acquires a nail gun at the climax. He uses it one-handed to fire nails like a pistol, flicking his wrist to cock it after every shot.
  • 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 incapacitated. It makes even the Corrupt Cop Masters uncomfortable and gets him to call out Nicolai on such a needless action.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: After the burglar takes the till and then takes 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.
  • Outside-Context Problem: To The Mafiya and the corrupt cops working for them, Robert is this. Throughout the movie, the Russian mobsters keep trying to find out who Robert is. Everyone, including the big boss man's Psycho for Hire Teddy, keep thinking that he's working for another organised crime outfit as a hit-man. In reality, Robert is a retired superspy from the CIA who just happened to take an interest in one of their abused prostitutes.
  • Obviously Evil: The Mafiya gangsters are covered in tattoos of devils, knives and skulls. The pimp in the first act has skulls on his wardrobe and glass skulls adorning his desk.
  • 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.
  • Reality Ensues: Robert's biggest threat is just a burly guy he can no longer catch by surprise. All things being equal, the biggest guy has a distinct advantage even with Robert's training.
  • Retired Badass: Robert McCall. The movie is about him coming out of retirement.
  • Sadistic Choice: In an unusual twist, Robert is usually the one making these offers. For example, Nicolai is given a choice between either shutting down operations on the entire coast or trying to push Robert until he's destroyed everything.
  • Sherlock Scan: Used by McCall in a weaponized format, similarly to Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes movies.
  • Shout-Out: Robert reads several books that all have symbolic applications to his character.
    • The Old Man and the Sea: Robert is an old man who is challenged by a worthy adversary and must fight with everything he still has, even though he ultimately gains nothing from the fight.
    • Don Quixote: Robert is a Knight Errant in a world where his kind of heroes are no longer around.
    • Invisible Man: Robert is African-American, and the book deals with black identity. However, the title is obviously more of a reference to the fact that Robert is an unknown quantity to the evil-doers in the world, and thus "invisible" to them.
  • 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.
  • 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 other people.
  • 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 in the whole movie. It doesn't make him any less evil.
  • Spiritual Successor: In spite of being an adaptation of a TV series, the film seems to share more with Man on Fire, given that it stars Denzel Washington on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge to protect a Damsel in Distress set to a faux Nine Inch Nails soundtrack.
  • Spy Cam: McCall conceals several cameras within mundane objects (a toy train and a wall clock, plus hacks the camera on his own home computer) to see the activity of the soldiers of The Mafiya (and Nikolai) that broke into his home.
  • 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. His apartment is immaculate. He has a very set routine. He arranges things on tables in the exact same way and straightens up things on tables even when it's not appropriate. In a few isolated moments he performs an action repeatedly that is often associated with OCD, such as opening and closing a door and turning on and off a light switch. The most extreme examples are 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.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: This music that plays when Robert emerges and kills Teddy.
  • 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.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Ralphie, thanks to McCall's training regimen. Not only does he pass the Home Mart security guard test, he plays a major role in helping McCall take down Teddy and his muscle in the final battle.
  • Uncertain Doom: Masters' final fate is left unknown, but he despairingly notes that he won't last a week.
  • Unflinching Walk: After Robert blows up the harbor and all the petrol tankers in there.
  • Vigilante Man: McCall is basically doing this throughout the entire movie.
  • 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.
  • Was It Really Worth It?: As Slavi is bleeding out on the floor, Robert sits next to him and points out that he's dying over a matter of $9,800.
  • 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.
  • Wham Line: "He didn't come for help. He came to get permission."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Masters is never heard from again after McCall leaves him to be arrested for his corruption.
  • Who Are You?: People are repeatedly asking who McCall is.
  • 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.
Top

Example of:

/

Feedback