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In some ways it is just another entry in the middle-aged-man-kicks-ass genre that has been popularized of late by Liam Neeson (the Taken movies, Non-Stop), with an assist from Kevin Costner (Three Days To Kill). But The Equalizer, starring Denzel Washington, while it has moments of sheer brutality, also manages to bring a different sensibility to the table - a sense of regret that infuses a soulful performance from its star. This is pulp, to be sure, but it is well-done pulp with a noir sensibility.

In The Equalizer, Washington plays Robert McCall, who would appear to be a former black-ops guy who has left his previous life behind for a more mundane life working in a Home Depot-type store. He's a little OCD about his personal habits and surroundings; he brings a military precision to his life, even helping to train a fellow employee who would like to become a security guard. But McCall has not entirely forgotten his past, and he suffers from chronic insomnia, spending his nights in a 24-hour diner where he sips tea and reads classic books like "The Old Man and the Sea."

McCall is dragged back into his old life when he takes revenge on a pimp who has beaten up a young prostitute whom McCall had befriended. He thinks it is going to be an isolated incident, but it doesn't work out that way; once those instincts are reawakened, he begins to see around him situations in which underdogs need to be helped and situations that need to be equalized. As McCall takes action, with precision and economy, he does it without any sort of blood lust, but with a sense of a job well done. But when the pimp he kills ends up being part of a group of Russian gangsters, things begin to spin out of control…

The Equalizer is based on an old TV series, which starred Edward Woodward as a former intelligence agent who helps people in need. It has enough of the original premise to justify keeping the title, but it updates the concept in ways that I think work overall. And Washington is great in the film which is directed by Antoine Fuqua, who directed him to an Oscar win in Training Day.

There are two things that really captured my attention in The Equalizer, and neither was an action sequence. One is how the film takes about 15-20 minutes to kick into gear: it has enough confidence in the premise and Washington's personal charisma that it takes its time to get where it is going, which makes the arrival all the more satisfying. The other is a moment, about halfway through the film, as Washington has grudgingly given into his nature. For the first time, he's able to sleep. In its own way, it is a small but powerful moment, and helps to make The Equalizer one of the better entries in this oeuvre.



On Sunday, "Homeland" returns to Showtime with a two-hour episode, launching its fourth season. The early reviews seem promising. Yippee!

And what appears to be the real golden age of television continues…




I continue to work my way through the early novels of Reed Farrel Coleman. I just finished "Soul Patch," the fourth in the Moe Prager series … and I continue to be just blown away by this guy's work. I have the same feeling I had when I discovered writers like Robert B. Parker, Michael Connelly, George Pelecanos, and Ace Atkins … it is like new worlds have been opened to me, and it is wonderful to devour their books and, through series characters, watch their development as writers and their protagonists' development as men.



I have a wonderful red wine to recommend this week - the 2012 Sattler St. Laurent, from Austria, which a wonderfully smooth wine with a bit of muscle to it. I read online somewhere that it was like a Pinot Noir with hiking boots … and that seems like a pretty good description to me. Enjoy.




That's it for this week.

Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

Slàinte!
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