Sony has been unable to lock down a director for The Equalizer, ever since the studio fast-tracked development on the 1980s TV series adaptation (with Denzel Washington starring). Filmmakers like Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) and Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) were courted to accept the job, but ended up passing for different reasons.
The most recent candidate to enter talks for the Equalizer directing position might stick around, though, seeing as that it’s Antoine Fuqua (who directed Washington to an Oscar in Training Day). Washington and Fuqua haven’t worked together again over the twelve years that’ve passed since then, but that’s (reportedly) because they just couldn’t find the right time and movie for a re-collaboration.
Equalizer is loosely based on Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim’s TV series, which ran from 1985-89. The script draft by Richard Wenk (The Mechanic) repurposes the show’s premise – a former covert operations officer helps people in need – so that it better matches Washington’s screen persona, allowing him to instead play a “solitary, monastic figure” who spends his time defending the helpless from being abused by those more powerful.
Fuqua’s latest slice of gritty action and thrills, Olympus Has Fallen opens in U.S. theaters tomorrow, but Training Day remains, and probably will continue to remain, his best known work. Hence, a reunion with Washington not only sounds like a wise move for the director, it ought to help in generating buzz for The Equalizer.
Washington played against type in last year’s Flight, which snagged him an Oscar-nomination and provided a reminder that he’s still capable of delivering volatile and raw performances – and not just the calm-and-refined characterizations he’s spent a good deal of the last decade turning in (for example, see his recent films like The Book of Eli, Unstoppable and Safe House).
Meanwhile, Fuqua has spent his time further refining his skills at making socially-conscious B-movie action, mixing drama and thrills in such films as Tears of the Sun, Shooter and Brooklyn’s Finest (in addition to stepping into new genre territory with King Arthur). He continues that trend with Olympus, which appears on-course to be a lukewarm critical/financial success, like most of his output.
Point being, there was something promising about having a genuine auteur like Refn oversee The Equalizer; the same goes for Wyatt, who’s shown considerable skill in tackling B-movie genre material. Fuqua, on the other hand, ought to deliver a competent adaptation (at the least), but I worry that the project is now destined to go down as “just another Denzel Washington action movie.”
The Equalizer remains set to open in theaters on April 11th, 2014.