Slumming With Denzel

“I have a very special set of skills…oops, wrong movie.”


My way of looking at Denzel Washington as he cruises to the cusp of 60 years young is he now makes two types of films.   The ones like Flight, American Gangster and Inside Man I want to see and all the other stuff like Safe House, Unstoppable and 2 Guns I’ll get around to seeing.

The Equalizer is strictly a get around to seeing.   I know I’ll see it eventually, but if it’s an afternoon matinée or in a month at a second-run theater, that’s cool   This is the latest entry of Denzel in kick-ass mode flicks and it’s a certainty his ass isn’t the one gong to get kicked.   I’ve seen Denzel play a variation of this role many times in  the past and it would seem to be a role he’s happy to return to repeatedly.

The wife and I didn’t get around to seeing The Equalizer the Movie starring Denzel Washington, but it still pulled down a healthy $35 million at the box office. The Equalizer the TV Show was okay, but hardly special featuring a British actor playing a retired agent on an unspecified organization who stepped in to equal out the odds for ordinary folks who couldn’t count on the authorities to help because they’re never any help in these sort of stories.

This is the sort of cliched junk Nicolas Cage and Sam Jackson do regularly.   Both of them of them could play McCall in their sleep, but audiences have come to expect those two to waste their time on instantly disposable rubbish.   Cage and Jackson have never been choosy about what they’ll do as long as they check clears.  Is Denzel really so hard up?

Even when he’s doing nothing Denzel does nothing better than anybody else.

Why does a two-time Oscar winner do material any aging actor in reasonable shape could do?   As far as cold, implacable killing machines there’s real difference between Alonzo Harris, John Creasy, Tobin Frost and Robert McCall.   It seems for every  Good Denzel in Flight, American Gangster or Inside Man we must endure a lot of Just Okay Denzel picking’ up a paycheck in flicks where no heavy lifting is required like Unstoppable,The Book of Eli, Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, Safe House, 2 Guns and now The Equalizer.    Of those movies the only one I never want to be bothered with ever again is Pelham 123 where all did was lie around and eat a lot.

Denzel is our last movie star and while his productivity is slowing down he hasn’t lost any luster as a leading man. Among his contemporaries DeNiro and Pacino have been mailing it in for years. Nicholson is old, fat and semi-retired. Cruise keeps making the same movie with different titles. Connery, Eastwood and Hackman are old, retired or both. Washington has mastered the rare talent of remaining watchable even if the movies are predictable.

Denzel is gifted with the ability to stay afloat even when weighed down by trivial obvious material. I will see The Equalizer even though I know before I sit down, Denzel will win, nothing too terrible will happen him and whatever challenges him won’t beat him. Who needs The Force when you have The Cool?

The Equalizer

The Equalizer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But is it enough?   Slate writer Aisha Harris doesn’t think so,  “Denzel was that very rare contemporary Hollywood star, the kind who simultaneously graced Sexiest Man Alive lists (with lyrical shoutouts from admiring ladies) and Oscar ballots, even winning a couple in the process. Rarer still, he did it all while being black, carrying the baton handed to him by Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte, running with it gracefully. And now, in The Equalizer, he’s playing a half-baked variation of the “retired gunfighter” trope in a junky action movie. Denzel deserves better.”

I agree Denzel deserves better. So do the audiences buying the tickets, but we’re both stuck with a talented actor having to take what he can get.

At a fee of $20 million, Denzel doesn’t come cheap and doesn’t overexposure himself. There’s nothing upcoming on his IMDB page and I won’t believe he’s starring in a remake of The Magnificent Seven directed by Antoine Fuqua until I see they’ve started shooting. What nobody knows are what are the scripts coming Denzel’s way? Is he being offered serious roles that give him a chance to show off his serious skills as an actor? Or does he have to take scripts where there’s no heavy lifting involved, just turn on the charm and cash the checks?

I fully expect The Equalizer to be crap, but since this is Denzel and not Nicholas Cage it will be magnificent crap.

“Girl, go home and put on some clothes. This ain’t a remake of ‘Black Snake Moan.’ “