The Equalizer (film)

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The Equalizer
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAntoine Fuqua
Written byRichard Wenk
Based on
The Equalizer
  • Michael Sloan
  • Richard Lindheim
Produced by
CinematographyMauro Fiore
Edited byJohn Refoua
Music byHarry Gregson-Williams
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release dates
  • September 7, 2014 (2014-09-07) (TIFF)
  • September 26, 2014 (2014-09-26) (United States)
Running time
132 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$55–73 million[3][4]
Box office$192.3 million[3]

The Equalizer is a 2014 American action thriller film directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by Richard Wenk.[1][5] It is based on the 1980s TV series of the same title and the first of three films starring Denzel Washington in the lead role. The cast includes Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Bill Pullman, and Melissa Leo. Washington plays Robert McCall, a former Marine and former Defense Intelligence Agency Paramilitary Operations Officer who reluctantly returns to action in order to protect a teenage trafficking victim from members of the Russian mafia.

Principal photography took place in Massachusetts from May to September 2013. The world premiere for The Equalizer was held at 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2014, and it was released in theaters worldwide on September 26, 2014. The film received mixed reviews from critics and grossed $192.3 million worldwide.[6] The sequels titled The Equalizer 2 was released on July 20, 2018, and The Equalizer 3 was released on September 1, 2023.


Robert McCall, retired from both the USMC and DIA / DCS, now lives a quiet life in Boston, where he works at a big-box home improvement store. He helps his colleague Ralphie train to become a security guard. Unable to sleep, Robert often spends late nights reading at an all-night diner. Over time, Robert has befriended Teri, a teenager sex worker trafficked by the Russian mafia. The pair often talk about the books he has been reading and Robert's goal to read 100 books as his late wife had made a goal of reading.

One evening, Teri shares that her real name is Alina and that she dreams of becoming a singer. Robert and Alina take a stroll, but Alina's pimp Slavi abruptly arrives, hits Alina and forces her into a car. Slavi hands Robert a business card for their escort service before driving away. A few nights later, a badly injured Alina is admitted to the ICU at a nearby hospital. Upon hearing the news, Robert travels there and learns from her friend Mandy, another prostitute, that Slavi is responsible for her condition.

Robert finds Slavi and his men at their restaurant and is bluntly refused when he offers to buy Alina's freedom for $9,800. He judges the room and their weapons, estimates the number of seconds it will take to kill them all, and then does so, talking to Slavi in the last seconds before he dies, saying Slavi should have just taken the money.

Unbeknownst to him, Slavi and his men are part of a much larger syndicate, led by Russian oligarch Vladimir Pushkin. Teddy Rensen, Pushkin's enforcer, arrives in Boston to investigate the attack. Aided by Boston Police Department detectives on Pushkin's payroll, Teddy canvases rival gangs in the area, nearly beating Irish mob lieutenant "Little John" Looney to death to send a message. Robert continues exacting vigilante justice on criminals which he encounters. He blackmails two corrupt police officers into returning racketeering money to Ralphie's mother, and beats a gunman with a hammer after the gunman robs the hardware store, taking a coworker's heirloom ring from her.

Teddy kills Mandy after learning that she concealed information about Robert and lied about her friendship with Alina. He visits Robert at his apartment, posing as a police detective, but Robert does not fall for the guise. Teddy flashes a picture of the strangled Mandy before walking away, offering it as a warning. Teddy and his mercenary group are unable to abduct Robert on two occasions. Robert visits his former DIA colleague Susan Plummer and her husband Brian. He asks for Susan's help in identifying Teddy. She informs him of Pushkin's operation and that Teddy's real name is Nicolai Itchenko, a Spetsnaz operative turned Russian secret police agent. Susan also reveals that Nicolai murdered two of the Boston PD detectives and that another one of them named Frank Masters had not been heard from in days.

Robert tracks Masters down and threatens him into helping take down one of Pushkin's money laundering warehouses. Masters and Pushkin's men are taken into custody when the police arrive, and they find a note left by Robert to "follow the money." He confronts Nicolai again, threatening to do more damage if he continues to pursue him. He later destroys two of Pushkin's oil tankers. In response, Nicolai abducts Robert's coworkers at the hardware store to force him to meet. To Nicolai's surprise, Robert skips the meeting with Nicolai and instead kills the men guarding the hostages. Nicolai arrives with his men, but Robert stealthily annihilates all of them one by one with improvised weapons collected throughout the hardware store. As Nicolai is about to kill Ralphie, who stayed behind to help, Robert kills Nicolai with a nail gun.

Three days later, Robert finds Pushkin at his Moscow mansion, killing all his guards and tricking him into electrocuting himself to death. Sometime later, Alina, following her recovery, runs into Robert and shares that she has started a new life with the money that was left at her hospital bed. Alina has no idea it was Robert who left the money in the hospital. Inspired to continue helping others, Robert posts online ads as "The Equalizer".


In addition, Robert Wahlberg and Timothy John Smith play the crooked Boston Police Department detectives.


Development and casting[edit]

In April 2005, it was announced producer Mace Neufeld had partnered with Michael Sloan, co-creator of The Equalizer, with Sloan and producer Tony Eldridge having come up with the idea for adapting the series to film while working on another project.[7] In December of that year, The Weinstein Company had acquired the rights to develop the film.[8] In June 2007, it was reported that Michael Connelly and Terrill Lee Lankfor were hired to pen the screenplay with Paul McGuigan slated to direct.[9]

In June 2010, it was announced that Russell Crowe was trying to bring The Equalizer to the big screen directed by Paul Haggis, with Crowe intending to play Robert McCall.[10][11]

In December 2011, it was reported that Denzel Washington would star in the title role of the film version, to be financed by Sony Pictures Entertainment and Escape Artists.[10][12] In 2012, Nicolas Winding Refn entered talks to direct the remake, but the deal with Sony fell through for unknown reasons.[13] Director Antoine Fuqua came on board to direct on March 21, 2013, reuniting him with Washington after their successful collaboration on the 2001 Oscar-winning film Training Day.[14] Chloë Grace Moretz was announced as a co-star on May 10, 2013; Anna Kendrick, Kelly Macdonald and Nina Dobrev were also considered.[15]

On May 31, 2013, Melissa Leo was cast in the film. Leo previously worked with Washington in the 2012 film Flight, and with Fuqua in Olympus Has Fallen (2013).[16] Coincidentally, Leo actually guest starred in a season one episode of the original Equalizer television series titled "The Defector", in which she portrayed the daughter of a former Soviet agent, who enlists McCall's help to defect to the United States. Marton Csokas was cast to play the villain on May 17.[17]


Principal photography began in May 2013 at various locations throughout Boston including Haverhill, Hamilton, Ipswich and Swampscott.[18] Filming wrapped in September 2013.[18]

In the scene where McCall attempts to suffocate Masters in his car, it is a Jaguar XJ6 revealed in the shot of the hose into the tailpipe. The Jaguar was famously used in the original television series.


On June 21, 2013, Harry Gregson-Williams was hired to compose the music for the film.[19] Varèse Sarabande released a soundtrack album for The Equalizer on September 23, 2014.[20] The song "Guts Over Fear" by rapper Eminem featuring Sia, with production by Emile Haynie, premiered in trailers for the film.[21] The song also plays over the closing credits. Harry Gregson-Williams' score received critical acclaim for its ability to heighten the tension and atmosphere of the film.[22] The album peaked at number 26 on the Billboard 200 chart, showcasing the popularity of the music beyond the movie itself. "Guts Over Fear" became a significant component of the film's marketing campaign, garnering widespread attention and further solidifying The Equalizer's impact on popular culture.[22]


Promotion and marketing[edit]

The first official image from the film was released on December 6, 2013. On August 6, 2012, Sony had originally planned on an April 11, 2014 release date, but on July 5, 2013, the released date pushed back to September 26, 2014.[23][24] The first official poster for the film was released on April 16, 2014.[25] On April 22, USA Today revealed photos from the film.[26] On May 24, the trailer for the film was released.[27] On June 12, another official trailer for the film was released.[28] On July 16, the IMAX poster for the film was released.[29]

Innovative marketing tactics were employed for the film's promotion, including placing a viral ad in The New York Times Sunday classifieds, generating buzz and intrigue among potential viewers.[30] Denzel Washington's commanding presence in the lead role was a key factor in drawing audiences, with his portrayal serving as a major selling point in promotional materials.[31]

Social media campaigns and targeted advertising further bolstered anticipation for the film's release, engaging with audiences across various platforms.[31] The release date shift from April to September allowed for a more strategic positioning, capitalizing on a less competitive market window and ultimately contributing to the film's box office success.[31]

Theatrical release[edit]

The film's premiere was held at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2014.[32] Sony released the film in theaters worldwide on September 26, 2014.[33]

At the Toronto International Film Festival premiere, Denzel Washington and Chloe Grace Moretz captivated audiences with their dynamic performances, generating early excitement and positive reviews.[34] Following its festival debut, The Equalizer received widespread acclaim, solidifying anticipation for its global theatrical release on September 26, 2014.[31]

Home media[edit]

The Equalizer was released on Blu-ray and DVD on December 9, 2014, by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.[35] Later, it was released on Ultra HD Blu-ray on July 10, 2018, 10 days before the sequel was released in theaters.[36]


Box office[edit]

The Equalizer grossed $101.5 million in North America and $90.8 million in other territories for a worldwide gross of $192.3 million. Its net production budget was estimated between $55-73 million.[3][4]

The film was released on September 26, 2014, in the United States and earned $12.5 million from 3,236 theaters in its first opening night, including the $1.45 million it earned from 2,693 screens from Thursday night showings. On the second day, the film earned $13.5 million and $8.1 million on the third day.[37][38] Its opening day is the third biggest for Washington, tailing behind American Gangster ($15.8 million) and Safe House ($13.6 million).[39]

On its opening weekend the film earned $34.1 million ($10,816 per theater) and debuted at number one at the box office. The film broke several records at the box office during its opening weekend including the biggest R-rated debut of September, surpassing Jackass Number Two record ($29 million), the biggest IMAX opener of September, the biggest debut weekend gross for Antoine surpassing Olympus Has Fallen ($30 million), the fifth biggest domestic opening for Washington behind the aforementioned American Gangster ($43.6 million), Safe House ($40.2 million), and eventually behind its sequel The Equalizer 2 ($35.8 million) and The Magnificent Seven ($35.7 million). It was also the fourth biggest for a film released in September.[40][41][42] It earned $3.3 million from 352 IMAX theaters.[43] Audiences for the debut weekend of the film were 52% male and 48% female, with 65% of ticket buyers over 30 years old.[44]

The Equalizer earned $17.8 million overseas from 65 territories from 4,500 screens during its opening weekend with $1.4 million of the gross coming from 137 IMAX theaters.[45] The film broke several September openings record in various territories including the UK, Netherlands, Israel, and Egypt.[46] Top openings include the UK ($2.9 million), Russia ($2.7 million), Mexico ($1.4 million), Brazil ($1.3 million) United Arab Emirates ($875,000) and Malaysia ($650,000). Showings from Village Roadshow markets grossed an estimate $2.4 million with top openings including Australia ($1.9 million), New Zealand ($180,000) and Singapore ($300,000).[47][48]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, The Equalizer has an approval rating of 61% based on 206 reviews, with an average rating of 5.7/10.[49] The site's critical consensus reads: "The Equalizer is more stylishly violent than meaningful, but with Antoine Fuqua behind the cameras and Denzel Washington dispensing justice, it delivers."[49] At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating, the film received an average score of 57 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[50] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on a scale ranging from A+ to F.[51]

Writing for, Susan Wloszczyna gave the film three out of four stars, stating: "If The Equalizer lacks gravitas, it is fairly sturdy as far as pure entertainment goes ... And this film acts as an origin story with an ending that suggests a new franchise is afoot."[52] Common Sense Media gave an expert review of 3 star rating with parents and kids giving an average of 4 stars.[53] James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film three out of four stars, positively commenting on the pacing, further describing that it is "in no hurry to rush into things".[54] For The Globe and Mail, Liam Lacey gave a two-and-a-half stars out of four, welcoming the idea of sequels to The Equalizer, "just to watch Denzel finding new ways of getting even."[55]

Geoffrey Macnab for The Independent favorably compared the film to Washington's films with the late Tony Scott. However, Macnab criticized the plot, claiming that it "makes no sense whatsoever". Nonetheless, he left a rating of three stars out of five.[56]


The Equalizer 2[edit]

On February 24, 2014, seven months before the release of the film, it was announced that Sony Pictures and Escape Artists were planning a sequel, with Richard Wenk penning the script.[57][58][59] In early October 2014, Fuqua said in an interview that there would be a sequel to the film only if audiences and Denzel Washington wanted it. He stated McCall was an interesting character and that the sequel could have more of an international flavor.[60] On April 22, 2015, Sony announced that a sequel would be made.[61]

In July 2017, Columbia Pictures announced that a portion of the filming would take place in the Brant Rock area of Marshfield, which took place over two weeks in November 2017.[62] The Equalizer 2 was released in the U.S. on July 20, 2018.

The Equalizer 3[edit]

In August 2018, Fuqua announced his plans to continue the film series. The filmmaker expressed interest in the plot taking place in an international setting.[63]

By January 2022, a third film was officially confirmed to be in development, with Denzel Washington and Fuqua returning. Principal photography was scheduled to commence in 2022.[64][65][66][67][68][69] In June 2022, Dakota Fanning was cast in a supporting role. Written by Richard Wenk, the movie was produced by Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch and Denzel Washington. The project is a co-production between Sony Pictures, and Escape Artists Productions.[70] The film was released theatrically on September 1, 2023.[71]


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