Thursday, 5 February 2015
REVIEW: FIGHT! THE EQUALIZER vs. JOHN WICK
Some people are always ready for action, just looking for an excuse to start a fight. Take John Wick and Robert McCall for example. McCall (Denzel Washington coasting it) takes the law into his own hands after a prostitute gets beaten up by Russian gangsters, even though he made a promise to his sick wife that he would never be 'that man' again. She's dead now though so I guess it's ok.
John Wick (Keanu Reeves' best performance in years) has a dead wife too, but he's not about to go full 'Liam Neeson' for a hooker he barely knows. John Wick puts his particular set of skills to use when Russian gangsters kill his pet dog. In all fairness, the dog was left to him by his ailing wife, so it's understandable that he must seek vengeance, taking down the men (and women) responsible. About seventy of them.
McCall has put his mysterious past behind him and is dedicated to living a new, quiet life. But when he meets Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can't stand idly by. John Wick has put his mysterious life behind him and is dedicated to living a new, quiet life. But when his dog is beaten to death by Russian gangsters he comes out of retirement and vows revenge. They also stole his car, which probably explains why John doesn't stop killing at say, fifty Russian gangsters? Who's counting anyway?
Talking of gangsters, both films are blessed with tantalising big bads. John Wicks has Michael Nyqvist in its corner, while The Equalizer pits Marton Csokas against our only-too-eager hero. If it was a battle of the bad guys I would side with Csokas, his demented - yet calculated - killer is one of the films main attractions.
The Equalizer is a little more leisurely in its approach, allowing McCall and Teri to build a blossoming relationship first, before dispensing with the pleasantries and cutting loose on the carnage. McCall's a good man at heart, helping his colleagues at work and making amends for any wrong doings he may have committed in the past. John Wick is a little less sociable, which is probably why he takes it so badly when a Russian mobster kills his beloved pet. The groups young leader is played by Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy from Game of Thrones), who nabs himself another meaty role here. At least said meat stays intact in this one.
John is a little faster into action and the fight sequences come thick and fast. The moody greys of Wick's world are brought to life by some exquisite visual artistry, with co-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch making good use of their background in stunt work. It's intoxicating stuff, and as always, Reeves commits himself to the physical challenge of the role.
He's always at his best when he plays the strong, silent type, and John Wick certainly fits that mould. The outcome is obvious but John Wick feels fresher than The Equaliser, despite Antoine Fuqua's best attempts at shaking up the frequent fight scenes. McCall resembles Holmes in his anatomy of a scene, planning every bruising encounter down to the nearest millisecond. It's a nice twist but there's very little tension to be found in the final act.
The Equalizer pits Denzel as some kind of superhero, and there's never really any doubt about how things will turn out. Not that John Wick is particularly vulnerable either, but when an unnecessary rock soundtrack kicks in Robert McCall becomes indestructible, and the outcome is never in question. The music video editing takes you out of the action and destroys any chance of suspense.
John Wick on the other hand, despite an incredible Heat-style shoot out, seems a little more vulnerable, which makes him a whole lot easier to invest in. Both films pack a punch at the end of the day, but John Wick feels tighter and more compact, hinting at a world we want to explore at greater length. His background is a little more interesting too, despite an almost unrecognisable appearance by Bill Pullman in The Equalizer. Wick's world drowns in honour and conduct and is all the more compelling for it.
Both films are worthy of your time but there can only be one winner and John Wick is the last man standing. A fiercer edit could've put The Equalizer on top, but John Wick has a superior sense of mythology and greater potential going forward. His is a world I would want to revisit, whereas Denzel coasts through The Equalizer with just his icy-cool stare for company.