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The Equalizer

‘The Equalizer’ provides an abject lesson in how not to adapt something.  Based on the hit 1980’s Edward Woodward TV series, it strives to do justice to its memory.  Proving Hollywood’s obsession with plundering classic TV shows can sometimes go awry, this version is best avoided.  Contorting its premise to deliver an ultra-violent ‘Death Wish’-style vigilante fantasy, ‘The Equalizer’ is more akin to Rambo than the TV version’s restraint.

 

Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is a man with a mysterious past with deadly weaponry skills.  They come in handy when meeting Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz).  Trapped in the vice-like grip of Russian gangsters, she needs all the help McCall can deliver.  Taking arms and eager to fight for justice, McCall shows why his new moniker of ‘The Equalizer’ should be feared by evil-doers crossing his path.

 

Laced with grisly violence, one dimensional characters and Antoine Fuqua’s heavy handed direction, ‘The Equalizer’ is a disappointment.  Fans of the TV series would be aghast at the changes made.  High among them is Washington’s mono-sibylic performance as a man initially wanting a clean slate.  His role is like a blank one given the little emotion shown.  Fuqua’s decision to make McCall almost superhuman destroys any semblance of the TV series’ gritty reality.

 

As each fanciful action sequence appears the less credibility ‘The Equalizer’ has.  You may as well watch a Superman movie given how ridiculously indestructible McCall becomes.  The villains he faces are of the usual clichéd variety further highlighting the scripts’ far-fetched elements.  Nothing is believable with the mean-spirited violence offering uncomfortable viewing. 

 

‘The Equalizer’ is a mediocre vehicle for Washington and Fuqua who have done better.  Whilst certain scenes stand out, this overlong ode to brutality proves it takes a certain skill to adapt a property – something ‘The Equalizer’s’ film-makers clearly lack.

 

Rating out of 10:  4

The Maze Runner

It seems every new movie is based on a book series.  This isn’t necessarily bad as it means people are reading the novels for Hollywood to take notice.  Purchasing the rights, Tinsletown is forever hopeful of starting a new franchise.  ‘The Maze Runner’ is the latest.  Based on James Dashner’s book, the film version has the potential to rake in box-office dollars.  As long as it leads to more readers, it can’t be too awful as the art of the written word refuses to go out of style.

 

Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) wakes up wondering where he is.  Trapped in a huge maze with a group of boys, his memories of how he got there are blurred.  Uncovering his past via clues found in the maze, he slowly believes he is in it for a reason.  Helped by his new friends, Thomas attempts to escape the labyrinth and discover its shocking secrets.

 

Taking its cue from recent franchises such as ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘The Maze Runner’ may seem overly familiar.  It has the requisite good looking people in peril controlled by outside forces.  It also has plenty of action and obvious set-ups for future sequels.  Making it stand out is the utilisation of an interesting premise.  As the group move around the maze’s vast labyrinths, revealed secrets and tested loyalties threaten the group’s solidarity.  Helping to add nuances to potentially one-dimensional characters, the performers rise to the challenge with good skill.

 

Wes Ball directs the action and drama with intensity.  The way he increases physical and emotional tension is deftly handled showing some flair in avoiding any predictability.  The enclosed spaces in which the characters find themselves produce a melting pot of clashing personalities which the film uses to advantage.  Mixing desolate and lush scenery provide contrasts to the despair and hope all feel.  The character’s steely determination in freeing themselves from the nightmare also becomes palatable.

 

Whilst having a feel of a typical Hollywood ‘production line’ product, ‘The Maze Runner’ settles into its own groove.  It isn’t always perfect but leaves enough intrigue to care what happens next with a sequel sure to build upon its forebear’s success.

 

Rating out of 10:  7