American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
It’s sometimes easy to forget that Denzel Washington’s resume is as full of action thrillers as it is stocked with weighty dramas that cry out for awards. But “The Equalizer” is a high-impact reminder. Yes, it is part “Man on Fire,” part “Taxi Driver” and outright based on the ‘80s TV series of the same name that starred Edward Woodward as a former covert operative turned guardian angel for helpless victims.
If "The Equalizer" lacks gravitas, it is fairly sturdy as far as pure entertainment goes—and the actor takes his stealth vigilante as seriously as he does his Oscar-nominated performances in "Flight" or "Malcolm X," pulling out that patented charm as well as considerable deadly force. Unlike many of those AARP card-carriers in "The Expendables," Denzel, at the ripe age of 59, is still dependable as a man who gets the job done when the meanies run amok, and who still draws a crowd at theaters when he does so.
"The Equalizer" is especially noteworthy since it pairs Washington again with Antoine Fuqua, the director behind his Oscar-winning role in 2001’s “Training Day.” But don’t expect any “King Kong ain't got shit on me” histrionics in this caper. Washington’s Robert McCall exudes a serene calm while living a low-profile Spartan-like solo existence as a clerk at a Boston area Home Depot-like emporium.
While his co-workers treat him with respect and count on him for advice, they also wonder about his past. He jokes with a couple young guys that he used to be a Pip—meaning one of Gladys Knight’s backup singer/dancers—and they almost buy it as Washington pulls off some smooth old-school moves.