The Equalizer was stalled in early development for nearly three years, after plans for Russell Crowe and director Paul Haggis to reunite on the 1980s television series adaptation went nowhere. However, Sony executives bumped it onto the fast-track after reading a refurbished script from Richard Wenk (The Mechanic, Expendables 2), setting Denzel Washington to play the role made famous by Edward Woodward and lining up artistically-accomplished filmmakers to steer the direction.
Deadline is reporting that Rise of the Planet of the Apes director Rupert Wyatt has entered negotiations to oversee The Equalizer. This news arrives five months after we learned he’s not working on the second installment in the rebooted Apes series, titled Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (allowing Cloverfield director Matt Reeves to fill his spot), as well as a month after Nicolas Winding Refn formally parted ways with the production. No doubt, if Wyatt strikes a deal, he’ll make a very different sort of action movie than Refn (Drive) would have delivered.
Here is how the site describes The Equalizer:
The film is loosely based on the TV series that starred Edward Woodward as a mysterious former covert operations officer who helps people in trouble, and was created by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim. The film has that basic premise but takes off in its own way, tailored to Washington’s skills. He’ll play a solitary, monastic figure who hates injustice and devotes himself to helping people who are being victimized.
Sony wants Equalizer to kick off the first Washington franchise (it’s surprising that he hasn’t led one before); hence, the studio is budgeting the adaptation to cost $50 million – including, its star’s customary $20 million paycheck. Paramount tried to do as much with this past December’s Tom Cruise vehicle Jack Reacher, but Christopher McQuarrie’s well-received crime-thriller isn’t transitioning its aging (re: over 50) leading man away from his handsome hero persona as hoped.
By comparison, Wenk’s Equalizer screenplay is tailor-made to allow Washington to continue playing, well, himself (re: a righteous and noble man who acts with moral purpose). It’s a bit disappointing to see the actor tread on comfortable and over-explored territory for him, following on the heels of his performance in Flight (read my review) that reminds everyone Washington’s range extends beyond “solitary, monastic” characters. Few have the same commanding presence, though, and its these Washington roles that are most reliable at the box office (see: Safe House).
Wyatt demonstrated a strong understanding of the socially-conscious action movie and how to execute genre thrills with style, in the prison escape flick The Escapist and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, so he’s very much a promising candidate for taking on The Equalizer. However, Sony first has to work around a deal he has with Fox before anything can be finalized; not to mention, Wyatt’s attached to the AMC TV show pilot Turn and the film Birdsong starring Nicholas Hoult (Jack the Giant Slayer), so that likewise needs to be addressed.
The Equalizer opens in theaters on April 11th, 2014.