There is nothing in my life which Denzel Washington couldn’t fix, just the way he fixes everything in The Equalizer, even though the title of this movie does sound like a new weight loss product. The movie is based on the TV series of the same name, where Edward Woodward played a powerful, mysterious figure who would appear out of nowhere to help people, and then he’d vanish before they could tip him. Edward was one of those hearthrobs for ladies of a certain age, right up there with James Garner in The Rockford Files and Hugh Laurie in House. My Mom, the beloved Sondra Krell-Gelman, adored all of these men, and when I asked her why, she said, “Because they look like they could kill a spider, stand on a ladder and replace a lightbulb, fix a leaky faucet, have sex with you, and then leave quietly without waking you up. They’re like perfect, handsome husbands, because you never have to listen to them snore in their recliners.”
In The Equalizer, Denzel joins this admirable platoon of helpful, slightly arthritic studs, and he also makes a bid to join Liam Neeson as an action star for the AARP-and-Advil crowd. As the movie opens, Denzel is living alone in an immaculate apartment, he works at a Home Depot-type big box store, and he loves to read, all of which makes him assisted-living porn. At his local diner, Denzel befriends a very young prostitute, and it’s the kind of movie where the hookers wear brand-new sequinned mini-skirts and a variety of colorful wigs, as if they’re more polite versions of Hannah Montana. The villains are, of course, sadistic Russian mobsters, who have demonic full-body tattoos and complicated facial hair; I’m sure that at K-Mart, kids can now purchase Sadistic Russian Mobster Halloween costumes. The mobsters rough up the very young prostitute, and this doesn’t sit well with Denzel.
I’m hereby offering a Spoiler Alert, for anyone who has never seen a movie or a TV show about anything. But it turns out that Denzel is actually some sort of semi-retired, deeply moral, highly-trained CIA assassin, who can slaughter a strip bar full of Russian mobsters without even raising his heart rate, which must make his cardiologist very happy. Denzel looks great, and he kills the bad guys with more ingenuity than brute force; he’s like McGyver with a higher body count. What’s charming about this movie is that it feels like a blend of a 1980s TV show and a Humphrey Bogart movie, where the bad girls all have hearts of gold, and Denzel has an old-fashioned code of honor; he’s Andy Griffith wielding a nail gun.
By the end of the movie Denzel goes online to offer his services to all those in need. My mind reeled, as I imagined texting him to pick up my dry-cleaning, return a Donna Karan drape-front jersey cardigan, which I’d only worn once, to Saks for a full refund, and then, if he had the time, Denzel could strangle the man in my building who let his dog defecate in the elevator without cleaning it up. Maybe Denzel’s next action blockbuster can be called Fresh Direct, if you ask me.