Truth be told I wanted nothing to do with The Equalizer when it came out theatrically. I even went as far as to not make any plans to attend the press screening of it when it dropped in my area. What kind of reviewer does that? I can tell you. It’s a bad one. I guess it all harkens back to the fact that whenever I heard this film being tossed around while in production my mind instantly drifted to an elder white man (Edward Woodard) from the television series back in the mid 80’s, not the bada$$ that Academy Award winner Denzel Washington really could be circa his Oscar-winning Training Day era. If it wasn’t for a bad day this past November, which resulted in a trip to the cinema to see The Equalizer, I may not have reviewed this Blu-ray, but instead passed it along to another reviewer to cover because of my stupid arrogance and ignorance. It’s funny how fate works in mysterious ways.
So what we truly have here is a reunion between two powerhouses of the Training Day era I mentioned up above already, those being Denzel Washington and Director Antoine Fuqua. I’m not sure why I ignored that at first, but damn does it feel good to be home again and reunited with the pair. Let’s just say I can put my fear of The Equalizer being just an elder white guy running around to bed because this is about as R-rated as they come in the action movie world and I couldn’t be happier about that.
Of course Denzel is not operating alone here. He does have a supporting cast that consists of the very talented Chloe Grace Moritz, Marton Csokas, David Harbour, Haley Bennett, Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo. So now that we got all of these basics out of the way what do you say we talk some story? Sounds like a plan to me!
Robert McCall (Washington), as we come to learn in the film, is a retired secret agent. There’s a backstory to his character that will be exposed as the movie traverses one, but for now I will err on the side of spoiler territory. The way Robert gets back in action differs from that of the television show so as to not add any confusion to the matter I’m going to avoid talking about the television series altogether from this point on. All I’ll say is what I kind of hinted at before. This isn’t your parents Equalizer.
When we first meet McCall, he’s pretty much living a very quiet life. They spend a share fair amount of time building his character up as someone you would just love to have in your life. However, you didn’t expect that to last for too long did you? No sir! When he starts socializing more and more with Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young prostitute whose life is pretty much controlled by Russian gangsters, he can’t stand idly by after he witnesses something unspeakable. Armed with a particular set of skills (think Taken here), McCall comes out of his self-imposed retirement and does everything in his power to ensure justice prevails no matter what the circumstance may be (referring to a couple of B-story plot lines).
By the time we’re established here, rest assured, if someone has a problem, if the odds are stacked against them, if they have nowhere else to turn, McCall will reluctantly help. He is The Equalizer. You can take that anyway you want, but in reality, as we’ll discuss more down below in the Extras section, Denzel is the pulse of this movie. His laid back demeanor just sells the story here. Even if he didn’t speak a word throughout, I’d still be completely enthralled by his performance.
So what it all boils down to here ladies and gentlemen, The Equalizer is an action-packed, gritty thriller with plenty of tension and ironically tender moments to go around. I know a lot of people complained about the film’s pacing and how they just couldn’t wait for it to end, but like Casino Royale, that I compared this to up above before, I never wanted it to end. The supporting cast all do a fine job here with one hell of a script to back it up. I’ll let y’all do the web research on that to find out just how much people enjoyed this screenplay.
The action sequences, as you’ll read about much more in detail down in the Extras sections, are all top notch as well. They used a Sherlock Holmes kind of style to telegraph and deploy the merciless beatings here (with some slasher kind of moments you would’ve never seen coming). So with that being said, take comfort in knowing that they are all really well choreographed and pretty brutal and bloody. What’s not to love about that, huh? While I won’t go as far as to say that it’s as stupendous as the classic Training Day, I will say this Denzel and Antoine are back in a no-holds barred action movie where they absolutely take no prisoners. Now let’s see what the Blu-ray presentation is like. Follow me if you dare!
Like my love for the film I just discussed up above, I also have nothing but love for the video presentation of The Equalizer here on Blu-ray.
- Encoding: AVC MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p
- Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
- Clarity/Detail: Despite the many dark and dimly lit scenes the detail is amazing here. Every nuance is captured in this presentation like the individual hairs on Denzel’s arms, reflections in the marble break room tables, pores, complexions, Denzel’s stubble on his head and so much more. The clarity of the city shots in the heat of the night are breathtakingly clear and crisp. The backgrounds all appear sharp and chiseled. I just can’t say enough good things about it.
- Depth: Because of the outstanding clarity and the three-dimensional pop of the characters and objects in the foreground, the depth of field here is quite remarkable and instantly noticeable in Robert McCall’s apartment, the white, long hospital hallways and of course who can forget the never ending, expansive aisles in the hardware store where Denzel’s character is employed.
- Black Levels: The black levels are deep and inky throughout, and mark my word, lots of the sequences here are in the dark so it’s great that things look so spectacular here.
- Color Reproduction: The colors pop in the light and outdoor scenes, but for the most part sequences are captured and played out indoors, under the night and cloudy skies and of course in the dark where things really go bump in the night.
- Flesh Tones: The skin tones all look natural and authentic throughout. There’s never a moment really where the colors or complexions are jacked.
- Noise/Artifacts: I only noticed one thing here, but it’s not enough to ding this presentation over so I’m going to keep it to myself. If you notice more than you one quick black dot, then you have better eyes than I do.
“Equally” impressive here is The Equalizer‘s aggressive audio presentation here on the Blu-ray format. Lets count all the ways down below that this surround track rocks.
- Audio Format(s): English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, French (Quebec) 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio
- Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French
- Dynamics: There is a calm about The Equalizer that stirs not only in this surround presentation, but in Robert McCall himself. However, that quiet calm is like a sealed jar. Once you open that jar and expose what’s inside to the atmosphere a storm brews and thunder ensues. That’s what happens here folks. Robert McCall’s body and his motions are a weapon. Who needs a gun when you have his skills that this dynamic presentation captures so well here, both sides of the equation.
- Low Frequency Extension: Remember that quiet calm I just mentioned up above? Well things are pretty quiet here for the first one-fourth of the film, but once Robert McCall is provoked the LFE channel opens wide up to perfectly produce all the punching thuds, thunder strikes, the many explosions, the gun shots registering and whatnot that all ensue here. Things get batsh1t crazy here!
- Surround Sound Presentation: I kind of hinted at things up above which you would normally find in this category of surround sound discussion points, but I left out the swooning score and immersive soundtrack that engulfs you here, not to mention the fast action moments, the bus and rails passing you by, the hospital intercom in the rears, knocks on a door, chopper blades swirling, atmospheric noises buzzing, etc. You name it, The Equalizer surround presentation has it. I’m very satisfied with the way I always felt right in the middle of the tension and action here.
- Dialogue Reproduction: While there are lots of quiet moments here and whispering going on, the dialogue always reminds prominent, clear and intelligible throughout and that makes this guy very happy.
In addition to six behind-the-scenes featurettes that give viewers insight into the making of the film, The Equalizer‘s Blu-ray bonus features include “Vengeance Mode.” When viewers turn on this feature, they get an inside look during the major action sequences as Denzel Washington and Director Antoine Fuqua break down the deadliest moves in the particular scene and reveal how their collaboration helped reinvent action choreography. Sadly there’s no “real” audio commentary to be found here, but there is a Digital HD redemption code enclosed here good for bringing The Equalizer anywhere you want with you in your favorite UltraViolet player. So now that we got all that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at things here.
- Home Mart: Taking Care of Business One Bolt at a Time (HD, 2:11) – This one is kind of a throwaway in my opinion. The best I can describe it is as a spoof commercial that features the film’s climactic Home Mart sequences.
- Children of the Night (HD, 5:23) – This one’s all about my girl Chloe Grace Moritz and how she holds her own opposite Denzel on the big screen. Moretz discusses her character, Teri and all the research she did to play the young, exploited girl including meeting with prostitutes at the organization Children of the Night.
- Inside The Equalizer (HD, 7:51) – This one initially explores how the filmmakers felt when they heard The Equalizer rights were available and what happened as a result when they acquired them. It explores the creative process of re-imagining and bringing Robert McCall to life on the big screen. It examines Denzel’s character in detail and mixes all these cast and crew interviews and conversations with footage from the film and some behind-the-scenes shots too.
- Denzel Washington: A Different Kind of Superhero (HD, 6:56) – This one is a behind-the-scenes look at how Washington trained for his physically demanding role in this film. Make no doubt about, the filmmakers and cast all agree that Robert McCall is only brought to life by utilizing the amazing actor Denzel Washington. From what we learn here Denzel loved the script and was onboard instantly. It’s interesting to learn how Denzel met with the screenwriter for two weeks straight to perfect his role. They say Denzel is able to say more with less than any other working actor today.
- Equalizer Vision: Antoine Fuqua (HD, 7:06) – This one is kind of a no-brainer in regards to what it’s all about. It’s a firsthand look at the movie-making process from the Director. Coincidentally, it was Denzel that recommended his Training Day alumni. The cast of The Equalizer all chime in about working with Antoine and how he leaves room for the actor to make their own choices. It was really cool to learn how they decided to film the fight scenes and how they justified the way Robert McCall meticulously takes out his enemies. Lots of research was done.
- One Man Army: Training and Fighting (HD, 6:40) – Here’s a discussion with Washington, Marton Csokas and Navy Seals stunt coordinator, Keith Woulard, on the process of building a one-man army…aka the fight sequences in The Equalizer. Hell yeah! They did not want stunt doubles in here! They wanted Denzel to do it all, hence why it’s slowed down a bit to see him taking enemies out. Most of it is street and cage fighting, very little martial arts. They also talk about how all objects in a room were scanned and utilized in a fight. They brag how they have 6 to 7 kills in here that you have never seen before and will never forget.
- Vengeance Mode (HD, 2:35:00) – This mode delivers scene specific behind-the-scenes video throughout the movie. When viewers turn on this feature, they get an inside look during the major action sequences as Denzel Washington and Director Antoine Fuqua break down the deadliest moves in the particular scene and reveal how their collaboration helped reinvent action choreography. This is the closest you’ll come to a commentary track I’m afraid. All in all, there’s about 23 extra minutes here since the feature film clocks in around 2:12:00. Antoine and Denzel do give you a very quick video introduction here and chime from time-to-time even during scenes where this is no action.
- Photo Gallery (HD) – You can select individual photos to view or a launch a slideshow here.
I just can’t give you enough reasons why The Equalizer is a MUST-SEE, MUST-OWN Blu-ray release for me. I realize I’m in the “minority” here in my way of thinking, but if I had the authority I would love to see where they could go next with this character. The Equalizer was very reminiscent to the power that another Sony title, Casino Royale, held over me many years ago and like The Warrior of some three years past I just did not want to see The Equalizer ever end. That’s how I know I was part of movie magic. However, before I go, I just want to issue the following warning one more time so there’s no ignorant youngsters out there thinking the way I arrogantly was at first about this title. This is not your parents’ Equalizer. Our film here is rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, including some sexual references. Even the last Expendables can’t say that. So for anyone on the fence, I completely understand. May I at least recommend a rental of The Equalizer on the format which is king of the HD world, Blu-ray? Oh wait! I just did! I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did. The Equalizer marries a perfect HD audio/video presentation with a killer story and some banging extras to boot. Dig it!
Brings His Own Brand of Justice
to the Blu-ray Format December 30th