Inspired by the 1985 TV series starring Edward Woodward. I remember watching it, and recall it as pretty good. The premise: He was a guy you went to when you were facing bad guys you couldn’t handle. He would equalize the playing field … or, actually, since he was so good, he would gain the advantage. This is the same deal, a sort of origin story, where he came from and what got him into this. The final scene makes it crystal clear that this is intended as a franchise, and since it has cleared almost two hundred big ones, you can bet you’ll be seeing EQII next year.
This one stars Denzel Washington as an ex-CIA trained assassin. It’s pretty entertaining for most of its length. He kicks ass very satisfactorily on some suitably vile Russian gangsters.
One thing I try to do in a film like this is keep track of how long it is before the hero does something really, really stupid. (Aside from going up against five men at once without having a gun himself … well, you don’t believe that if you have any sense, but you accept it because it is a sign that he is very, very good.) It was not until 1:39 that he dumbed out, in what has become my least favorite generic scene in thrillers. He sets an explosion and then walks away from it, very slowly. Never looks back. How many times have we seen that happy horseshit? This is even worse than most, because it is a huge explosion, and it goes on and on and on. It is big enough to have easily blown him off his feet and tossed him fifty yards. Debris begins to rain down around him, and he walks stolidly on. He is immune to shrapnel. Once, just once, I’d like to see a scene like this where the hero is punched in the back by a flying car bumper of something. But no, he’s impervious. I know these scenes are meant to convey the guy’s macho chops, and it probably does, to stupid people. And as if I needed one more reason to hate this scene, I really don’t like someone who is so jaded to violence, so macho and cool, that he can’t even turn around to witness some really bitchin’ fireworks.
The body count is pretty damn high, too, even for this kind of film. Thinking back, I estimate that he killed well over thirty people. At the end, just added on as a little bonbon for us, he kills another dozen in Russia three days later, all but one of them off-screen. All in a week’s work, right? Sure, most of them needed killing, but what about that explosion? It was so huge that there’s no way it didn’t kill a dozen or so, maybe even a hundred, and many of them would have been innocent bystanders. But we’re not supposed to think about that. In fact, best if you don’t think at all.
At the point where these movies almost inevitably go downhill, at the end, I often find my mind wandering to side issues. Such as … in the grand finale Denzel goes to a giant Home Depot warehouse. The Big Bad guy enters with nine or ten henchmen, whom Denzel begins picking off one by one with handy home improvement tools. I began wondering about the henchmen. As their numbers diminish, what’s going through their minds? They show no sign of fear. Well, sure, they’re tough guys, and most of us don’t expect to die, at least not now, here in the dark in the Home Depot. After all, there are ten of us, and only one of him. And sure, they got Dmitri and Yuri and Vladimir and Bruce, but none of those bad boys were as bad as me. We are all the star of our own movie, right? And then as the chain is wrapped around your neck and you are hoisted into the air to strangle slowly, is your last thought “Shit! I ain’t the hero! I’m a fuckin’ henchman!”
Ah, the lowly henchman. What would we do without him?