Saturday, September 27, 2014


Denzel Washington has proven he can play both dust and rug. The 60-year-old actor has spent the latter part of his career perfecting two seemingly incongruous character types, the bookish teacher and the merciless vigilante killer. He’s made a convincing professor, coach, and life mentor: Remember the Titans, Malcolm X, Cry Freedom, and The Great Debaters had him speaking inspirational quotes in place of dialogue. But in Man on Fire, American Gangster, Inside Man, and Safe House he cut an equally believable criminal, indulging in violence and other vice.

That’s what makes The Equalizer, out in theaters today, the ultimate Denzel movie. In it, he delivers English lectures, uplifting speeches, dance moves, and brutal staple-gun assassinations. He passes a lot of time reading Books and spends the rest of his time killing. He makes easy friends with young, lost people in need of instruction; he makes enemies pretty quickly, too (or he would, if only he allowed them to live long enough to develop opinions). This is all to say that The Equalizer synthesizes Washington's character: a righteous assassin who is also a deep lover, and sometimes-teacher of literature.

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