Don't mess with Denzel in update of "The Equalizer"

September 26, 2014 6:03 AM

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Denzel Washington balances the scales of justice — and challenges Liam Neeson for a slice of the middle-aged action-hero pie — in "The Equalizer," an ultraviolent update of the 1985-89 CBS drama series that featured Edward Woodward as a former government agent turned pro-bono avenging angel. But in making the leap from small screen to large, and from pre-Giuliani New York to post-recession Boston, director Antoine Fuqua and writer Richard Wenk ("16 Blocks") have also traded the series' elemental underdog appeal for a "Taken"-style bloodbath that pits Washington against a surfeit of central-casting Russian gangsters and corrupt Beantown cops. Ponderously overlong and not even half as much fun as it should have been, "The Equalizer" still gets a lot of mileage out of Washington's unassailable star presence.

Although he shares a character name and skill set with his TV predecessor, Washington's Robert McCall is otherwise, literally and figuratively, an Equalizer of a different color: a childless widower (instead of a divorcee with an estranged son) who takes public transit (rather than tooling around in...

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