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.’ “

Everybody’s Watching The Charles Ramsey Show

Charles is in charge and loving’ every minute of it.

The life span of a media shooting star is roughly akin to that of a common house fly.  There’s a surge of attention with cameras and microphones.   Did a crime occur?   Is there an angle or hook that makes the crime unique and unusual?

What happened?  Who’s involved?  Do we have a victim, a villain and a hero?   The folks at home love news stories where it’s easy to separate the good guys from the bad.   The case of the kidnapped, raped and imprisoned women in Cleveland for over a decade by Ariel Castro met all the requirements of Must See television programming

To call Charles Ramsey…colorful is to be woefully understated.   Here we had a man casually talking about eating his Big Mac and how his neighbor had just been revealed as the-Worst-Human-Being-In-the-World.

Ramsey ruminated about Castro:

“My neighbor’s got big testicles because we see this dude every day.”
 “I barbecue with this dude. We eat ribs and whatnot and listen to salsa music…”
“We eat ribs with this dude.”
 “He’s not doing anything but the average stuff. You see what I’m saying? There’s nothing    exciting about him…well, until today.”

Finally he cemented his Internet superstar status with his line about his chance encounter with the long-missing April Berry.

“I knew something was wrong when a little, pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms. Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway.”

Thus was born the line that launched a thousand internet memes.

His hair was wild and unkempt.  The white T-shirt he wore didn’t exactly look freshly laundered.    The guy looked like he should be working under the hood of a car and not playing the part of the dashing hero.

Everything about Charles Ramsey seems set up to be ridiculed.   Everything except this:  He did the right thing.   He helped where others might not have choosing not to get involved.  Ramsey saved a life.  There’s no arguing no matter how unkempt, unpolished and unpretentious Ramsey’s demeanor none of it matters more than his good deed.    Which doesn’t mean there weren’t those who were made a bit uncomfortable by Ramsey.

One blogger put it this way,  “I must admit that I am guilty of watching and laughing at Ramsey throughout the video, but then I began to think about all of the recent “African-American” internet sensations and came to the conclusion that people are laughing at us, not with us. Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to offensive/embarrassing videos the internet/YOUTUBE does not discriminate, but taking a closer look at Ramsey, Antoine Dodson, and Sweet Brown one can only think that these working class, uneducated African-Americans are fulfilling a need America has had for over 150 years of seeing African- Americans perform.”

Why, if Brother Ramsey would just get his teeth fixed, cut his hair, put on a clean white shirt with a collar and a tie, splashed on some Old Spice and smiled real wide and pretty for the camera he’d be a credit to his race and a hero we could cheer for.

Anybody uncomfortable with Ramsey’s speech and appearance needs to back off, sit down, shut up and regroup because its their priorities that are out of whack.   Ramsey did a good deed and that is worth a hi-five, not the back of the hand treatment from the arbiters of authenticity.

“But he’s a clown,” they sputter with indignation.  “Just LOOK at him.  Listen to how he speaks.  He’s an embarrassment.”

There’s only been one Sidney Poitier out there in our lifetime and everyone isn’t going to be the Perfect Racial Representative.   What is it about Ramsey that distresses some people so much?  Is it his hairstyle (half fro/half not)?   Is it his inarticulate way of speaking or his fondness for fast food burgers?

What about it is about the guy that bothers so many about Ramsey?

Could it be this?


Who precisely is Ramsey embarrassing?  Certainly not  Amanda Berry. Michelle Knight  or Gina DeJesus whom Ramsey helped to freed from ten years in a living hell.    Like most horrific crimes of this nature where someone is held captive for years against their will, the nation was riveted to this story.   Then something else bright and shiny came along to capture the attention of the media and they and the rest of us wandered away.   That’s how short-Attention Span Theater works.

While  Ramsey’s moment of fame may disgust the High Priests of the Black Pride Brigade,  how many of them look just like him when they wake up in the morning?  How many of them dread bumping into a Charles Ramsey lookalike they’re related to at their next family reunion?

Charles Ramsey is not only one of us in his ordinariness, he’s the face we see glaring back in the mirror after a hard night of drinking and partying.    Some of us don’t much like that face and wish it would just go away.

The same way as earlier media-made stars/Internet sensations Ted Williams, the homeless man with the golden voice and Antoine “Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wife” Dodson quickly cashed in on their fleeting fame, Ramsey is making his move.

He’s going to be a motivational speaker.   Talking to whom and telling them what I could not begin to guess.

Enjoy the ride, Charles.   There will plenty of others looking for a way to turn a bizarre crime into a money-maker.   You only happened to be the first to cut the deal.

Anybody with their Jockeys in a wad over Americans (particularly the White Americans) laughing at The Charles Ramsey Show needs to take a pill and relax.  Everybody plays the fool sometime.   Some will even make a buck off of it.  Relax.  It’s not as if this program will be renewed for another season.

Ask these former captives if Ramsey is a hero.