It is a sad strange little movie. Centered around the murder of a boy who is by all accounts an asshole who was heading for disaster one way or another. The subsequent coverup of the murder and Hoffman's attempts to pay for a funeral he can't afford. I found it engaging and more than a little sweet but sad at the same time. It is a surprisingly slippery movie. It is less a sequential story told with pictures and more of a series of moods, emotions and memories. It transcends the, “and this happened then this happened plot” and instead it drifts about almost as a surreal slice of life. I understand why it isn't very well received. It is a strange movie on par with Only God Forgives or Cosmopolis but it doesn't look, sound or feel strange. It just creeps up on you and then there is this conflagration of events cascading to disaster and while you know how we got there you can't help but think, “jesus this is such a strange movie”. It ends on a sad not then a bittersweet one. It also ends in Florida. I liked it very much and months from now when I watch it again I feel like I will be continued to be mystified by its mix of banality and disaster. Good times.
The moive exudes a deep breathless air. One of details I love about the movie is that Nieson isn't this island of a man who talks to no one, has no friends, and does everything by himself. It isn't true. He is friends with the waitress at the diner. He goes to AA meetings which is how the plot of this particular movie gets started. He befriends a homeless black boy halfway through. People are his main source of information. He doesn't just blunder into information, or he doesn't just have that one friend in the fbi who owes him a favor and he grudgingly cashes it in to move the damn plot along. No. Instead we are treated to a competently written procedural as our hero tries to get information for people he doesn't like.
When the movie ends it doesn't feel like it is over so much as it feels like you are being released from its clutches so that you may go home and be thankful that you aren't any of the characters in this movie. It is a damn good and I am sad more people aren't going to go see it.
Lets contrast it with the Equalizer. Man was the Equalizer a terrible movie and what's worse is that I am predisposed to like the Equalizer. I love movies about people who try to escape from their previous lives but their lives catch up to them either because of circumstance or they just get drawn back in. History of Violence is my penultimate example of the genera but there are many others as well. Including the Equalizer. The problem is that the movie had no focus. The trailers made it look like he was going to save a young girl from a life of prostitution. That means PIMPS! I love Pimps as movie villains no matter what happens to them I don't feel bad at all. Instead it is the Russian mafia. That's cool I guess. Russian mafia is in. Still pimps I still hate them but when the whole situation resolved itself within the first half hour I was a little confused. Then he did this thing with some dirty cops. Then there was this bad ass Russian troubleshooter who spent an HOUR investigating to find out who our main character was. Predictably he was ex CIA. Not the CIA who spend most of their time reading files and using other people to get information for them. No this guy was the one man army CIA. The type of CIA man that makes you wonder why we even bother with an army when we can apparently just make one man killing machines. I don't know I do know I was relieved when the movie finally ended because I was so crushingly bored by the uninteresting action scenes that I couldn't care less.
Women have been speaking up about their portrayals in movies a lot lately because they are tired of being the people who are put into danger, or get mutilated, or raped, or killed, so that the main character can have a reason to go do the plot. Die Hard, John Mclain needs to go save his wife. Die Hard 2 he does it again. Die Hard 4 he is saving his daughter this time WHAT A TWIST. The examples go on and on. The idea is that a dead chick equals instant drama. This is a complex issue that is worthy of its own post so lets set that aside and refocus on the Equalizer because this is a bad example of what a movie looks like when the character has a no clear motivations for his actions. Plot wise the Equalizer is a combination of Die Hard 2 (because the movie isn't very good) and Die Hard 3. Yes he saves the girl from a life of prostration. She is then promptly and fucking improbably never heard from again until the end of the movie. The movie then shifts to Die Hard 3 as there is a man after Washington trying to kill him for the actions he committed in Die Hard 2. The problem is that this is all happening in the same movie and if you think this paragraph is a train wreck then it is nothing compared to the mishmash of things that happen in The Equalizer.