Equalized by Denzel Again

DATELINE:  Inequality!

denzel as mcCall

Don’t infuriate The Equalizer, as played by Denzel Washington for a second time in Equalizer 2.

We loved the Michael Sloan series about “retired” agent Robert McCall on TV with Edward Woodward, and we really like the idea that he has retired into hiding, faked death, to work as a vigilante for hire to help the helpless. We do miss Robert Lansing as Control.

Here he lives in Boston, and the backdrop of the Hub is photographed with all kinds of reverence, from the Zakim Bridge to Roxbury. We also like the notion that to meet people, McCall now works as a Lyft driver.

An old familiar face plays a Jewish passenger. We were shocked to learn it is Orson Bean, whom we have not seen in 40 years.

The corrupt people at the Agency, the Company, or whatever you want to call that American secret spy group, going by odd alphabets, seem to be worse than ever. No wonder McCall wanted out. Now, one of the few people he liked and trusted, Susan, another retired agent (Melissa Leo), has met a mysterious circumstance.

When Denzel goes into full mode, the bad guys should cringe, though these kind of villains always think they can match the hero. Otherwise, there’d be no entertaining movie.

The moral questions about the right of agency’s to off people they deem bad guys, without proof, is at the heart of this film, which makes it a cut above the usual death-by-gruesome-means movies.

Director Antoine Fuqua is adept and amusing enough to set the climax in a hurricane, which certainly helps with the dispatching of bad guys.

 

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Unequal Odds Against You?

DATELINE: TV MASHUP

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The Equalizer (Edward Woodward’s famous silhouette)

With the interest in Person of Interest, we were drawn back to the earliest ex-CIA agent gone rogue incarnation. The original series about The Company featured Edward Woodward and Robert Lansing back in 1985.

For four seasons, with primitive technology (but computer savvy nonetheless), The Equalizer helped ordinary people in trouble, same formula as Person of Interest.

Taking in the first season of Woodward’s character, he broke so many rules of the era. He was a silver-haired, middle-aged dissident, going even a few steps beyond Patrick McGoohan’s Prisoner.

Robert Lansing equaled the Equalizer as put-upon Control, right out of a John LeCarre vision of secret agency. Yes, Person of Interest also has a seldom seen, evil Control.

Of course, the repertory of supporting actors in recurring roles was always a delight: Austin Pendleton, Mark Margulies, and Saul Rubinik, were constants back in the 1980s. Come to think of it: they have all appeared in Person of Interest, twenty-five years later.

Both shows were also filmed on location in New York City, providing a colorful backdrop that remains a throwback to the Golden Age of TV, all done in New York studios. Both anti-heroes had a penchant for a quick trigger finger when needed and used New York cops as errand boys.

Only the first season of Equalizer is available on DVD, but the Michael Sloan vision is being resurrected with Denzel Washington as a new movie version of Woodward’s Robert McCall. The update will likely have him texted, not phoned. Of course, the new movie would not have been possible without Jim Caviezel’s new incarnation of the vigilante with a moral compass.

Good ideas never grow old, and The Equalizer grew in its quality, much as has Person of Interest in its three seasons. Of course, we do prefer originals.

All Things Being Equalizer

DATELINE: TV MASHUP

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Jim Caviezel & Michael Emerson as Mr. Reese & Mr. Finch

Ten years after the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers comes Person of Interest that is prophetic about Edward Snowden, privacy violations, and vigilante justice.

The hit television series uses formulaic unconstitutional techniques with aplomb in its first 2011 season.

Twenty-five years ago we had Edward Woodward as The Equalizer with his friend Control (Robert Lansing), depicting a rogue, alienated former CIA agent going after everyday garden variety criminals to help those in need.

Now comes Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson as a disaffected former secret agent/mysterious killing machine and his companion, a billionaire recluse who has invented the government’s NSA spying computer network.

They are both outsiders, angry at government, who exemplify Robin Hood stories on a mission to save people from violent crime. Mr. Reese has a sociopathic penchant for killing bad guys, much like Robert McCall of Equalizer fame. Mr. Finch is like Control of the Company with strings to pull.

The idea that spying networks can determine future murders and only needs a dedicated intervention is intriguing. Person of Interest uses technology in a way that the invasion of privacy Snowden revealed has become reality.

Caviezel speaks in a harsh whisper like Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry on steroids, but this merely echoes Kurt Russell’s parody of Eastwood’s voice in Escape from New York.

Mr. Reese never escapes from New York, but like Snake Plisskin, he is the scariest nightmare murderers ever dreamt. Of course, the twist is that the people the computer designates as involved in a potential murder may be the killers or the victims. You never know until privacy is breached and plots uncovered.

Mr. Reese and Mr. Finch are like that much-copied couple, Holmes and Watson in another incarnation of bromance, as well as the template Equalizer and Control. Move over, Javier Bardem, in No Country for Old Men. Mr. Caviezel makes New York City no country for criminals.

The harshly cynical stories provide mesmerizing weekly television fare as we take glee with the vigilante execution of anyone who seems to be beyond the legal system. Mr. Reese is judge, jury, and always executioner when given the information Edward Snowden worried about.

We are not sure if society needs Mr. Reese acting as Angel of Death, but television entertainment certainly enjoys his grim reaping.