Face-Off: Jack Reacher vs. The Equalizer

Hello there, thrill seekers! This is the Face-Off, and today we have an edition that would actually make a pretty kick-ass movie. In honor of the releases of THE EQUALIZER 2 and

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT we have a battle that pits two films about classic, charming, ass-kicking justice seekers: JACK REACHER vs. THE EQUALIZER. See, wouldn’t that look amazing on a poster?

The first film gave Tom Cruise yet another action vehicle to lead after returning once again as Ethan Hunt in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 4 only a year before, and he proved yet again why he’s one of the top movie stars ever period end of story. Then there’s EQUALIZER, a more hard-edged and dramatic flick than REACHER but also featuring fantastic work and killer action from its lead, Mr. Denzel Washington . The movie reunited Washington with TRAINING DAY director Antoine Fuqua, and it ended up being one of the bigger hits in either of their careers, spawning what could be an even bigger sequel.

Both of these iconic stars make for impressive brawlers in these movies, and now it’s time to throw these two into the ultimate rain-drenched finale and see who comes out victorious.

Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher
Rosmund Pike as Helen
Richard Jenkins as Rodin
David Oyelowo as Emerson
Jai Courtney as Charlie
Werner Herzog as The Zec
Robert Duvall as Cash
Denzel Washington as Robert McCall
Chloe Grace Moretz as Teri
Marton Csokas as Teddy Rensen/Nicolai Itchenko
David Harbour as Frank Masters
Haley Bennett as Mandy
Bill Pullman as Brian Plummer
Johnny Skourtis as Ralphie
Melissa Leo as Susan Plummer
Christopher McQuarrie didn't have much experience directing features prior to REACHER, taking a break from the chair after his film THE WAY OF THE GUN wasn't well-received. But his work on this action flick is quite good and shows he has a knack for constructing action sequences. I always admire the first 7-8 minutes, giving the sniper sequence some intensity, and then following it up with a few minutes of silence (sans some music) as the police begin to investigate. From there has does an excellent job staging the action scenes, whether its something small or the epic car chase, which features some long takes and no music. There are stylistic flourishes he would go on to improve upon in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - ROGUE NATION, and no doubt in FALLOUT. But aside from the fantastic action, McQuarrie doesn't quite put his stamp on anything. The familiarity of the story gives the movie a by-the-numbers feel, and there's not a lot to set itself apart from others in the genre. Still, some solid work with some great scenes where McQuarrie demonstrates a fine eye for thrills.
The thing I love most about EQUALIZER is how well Antoine Fuqua juggles the heavy, brutal tone with the traces of heart and humor scattered throughout. The atmosphere he conjures is so palpable, with Fuqua favoring minimal lighting in several scenes, giving McCall an aura of mystery and danger. EQUALIZER has a very strong visual personality as a result, and it's what I imagine a Batman movie from Fuqua would look like. It would be a very R-rated Batman movie, as Fuqua doesn't shy away from the nastiness, grit or violence. But, like I said, there's room for humor and levity, and much like McQuarrie does with Cruise on REACHER, Fuqua gets a charming, likable performance out of his lead, giving you more reason to root for the guy as he bashes in skulls. From a directorial standpoint, this is one of Fuqua's stronger efforts.
JACK REACHER's story takes from classic action flicks from both page and screen, and is filled with mystery, framings, cover-ups and double-crosses. The problem with all that is the plot can seem too familiar, and the script from McQuarrie (based on the book by Lee Child) doesn't do a lot to add anything new to the formula or make it seem fresh. That was the point, though, to tell a bare-bones story with a tough figure at the center. There's nothing wrong with that, but maybe it would've been better if the mystery at its core was more compelling. See, we know at the very start its Jai Courtney's character that kills those people, so Reacher's quest to prove Barr's innocence isn't exactly gripping, simply because we already know he didn't do it. So why were those people shot and Barr framed? Some issues over a construction company, I guess. Not exactly a seat-gripper, right? If it weren't for McQuarrie's great grasp on the central character the movie would be quite forgettable. He writes Reacher as a tough, mysterious figure who can still take a hit and feel challenged. On top of that, he's given charm and humor and mixed with a charismatic Cruise role the character makes the movie worth watching.
The movie is sold as a gritty, R-rated action thriller, but at the start of the movie it comes off more as a character study. The script by Richard Wenk spends a lot of time illustrating the details of McCall's simple life, mapping his nuances and behaviors. It's a subtle approach to what becomes a rather violent, dark thriller, but one that adds a dramatic layer that makes the movie standout. After the first big brawl, the movie goes through a bit of a slump, with little connective tissue to string together the other do-goodings of McCall with the nefarious deeds of the main villain. They feel like two different stories placed side by side. Obviously, it's awesome to watch McCall beat up some crooked cops, even if it feels more like a random act than an integral part of the story. If the story is about McCall learning to be who he was meant to be I would've liked to see more emotional struggle written into the script. He says he promised someone he would never "go back to that life," but he seems to do it pretty easily. But, like REACHER, the character is written with depth and charm, and for what it's worth, I prefer watching his journey unfold to the old-school plotting of the competition.
Tom Cruise is, perhaps, the greatest movie star we have living among us. He commits 100% to everything he does, including his own stunts, all with the mission of giving moviegoers a gripping experience. Here he's charismatic and suave, and though he may not be 10 feet tall like Reacher supposedly is in the books, he owns the role of Reacher like no one else can. He takes down thugs like Batman (I know, I know, that's the third time I've brought Bats up) and drives like, well, like Cruise. Action movies are just so much better with Cruise in them, and he carries REACHER and elevates it above the typical action-thriller flick.
Okay, along with Cruise, Denzel Washington is also one of our greatest living actors and movie stars. He's poised and charming and brings much of that to Robert McCall in EQUALIZER. What I like most about his work here is that he gives Robert a very casual, principled persona, much like a father figure, but at the turn of a switch he can go from warm and gentle to calculating and brutal. Not a lot of performers can walk that wire with as much grace and showmanship as Washington

Sniper Sequence

Jack Reacher: Stateless Man, Goodwill Shopper

Barr's Story

Jack: "What I mean is, the cheapest woman tends to be the one you pay for."

Jack: "Well, once I take out the leader, which is you, I'll have to contend with one or two enthusiastic wingmen. The last two guys, they always run."

Five Against One

The Victims

The Zec/Bite Off Your Fingers

Gary: "Well, I need to see something."

Jack: "How about the inside of an ambulance?"

Beating Up a Guy with Another Guy's Head

Sandy Murdered

Car Chase!

Casual Escape

Shooting Range

Jack: "You think I'm a hero? I am not a hero. I'm a drifter with nothing to lose. Now you killed that girl to put me in a frame. I mean to beat you to death and drink your blood from a boot. Now, this is how it's gonna work. You're gonna give me the address and I'll be along when I am damn good and ready. If she doesn't answer the phone when I call this number, if I even think you've hurt her, I disappear. And if you're smart, that scares you, because I'm in your blind spot and I have nothing better to do."

Construction Site Shoot Out

Outdoor Rain Climax

Jack: " I was born in October. When I get to my birthday, I'm gonna pull the trigger."

Zec's Dead, Baby

Jack Reacher: Bus Riding Vigilante


Diner Time

Robert: "You gotta be who you are in this world, no matter what."

Russian Takedown

Robert: "Sixteen seconds."

Robert: "Your heart's beating three times the normal rate because you're losing so much blood. About 30 seconds, your body's gonna shut down... and you're gonna suffocate. Alina, the girl you beat half to death, her life will go on. Yours is gonna end right here, on this funky floor... over $9,800. You should have taken the money."

Beating Down Construction Dude

Taking Down Crooked Cops

Store Robbery/Bloody Hammer

An Unexpected Visit

A Hit Gone Wrong

Gassing David Harbour

Explosion Walkaway

One on One

Robert: "I've done some bad things in my life, Nicolai... Things I'm not proud of. I promised someone I love very much that I would never go back to being that person... But for you, I'll make an exception."

Home Mart Showdown

Barbed Wire Noose

Indoor Rain Climax

Robert McCall: Craigslist Vigilante

One thing I wasn't expecting when I saw this movie for the first time was how the action scenes would mix a playfulness with brutality. Reacher is an aggressive brawler in a fight, and there's a sense of humor and ridiculousness that comes with it. A great example is that bar fight, with Cruise as Reacher having the attitude of a guy who knows fighting off five bros is not worth his time. Then there's the fight in the house, wherein two dipshits can't hit a dazed Reacher when he's right in their face. This ends with one of the movie's best scenes, wherein Reacher beats a dude unconscious with his buddies own head. How amazing does that sound?! Then there's a pretty fantastic car chase, done without music so you can hear the rev of the car engine and clicking of the gear shift. And how about that rain fight between Cruise and Courtney? So badass!
Like McCall himself, the action in this movie is very precise, very brutal and rather unexpected. This easily could've been a PG-13, bloodless affair, but when McCall is unleashed he is exact and merciless. This makes the action scenes shocking and totally enjoyable, like when McCall fashions a noose out of barbed wire in Home Mart or when the big bad beats that other guy to a bloody pulp. The one problem I have it that McCall does seem so great at what he does that I never really felt he was in danger. Sure he gets tossed around when he's fighting that big dude in the end, but he rallies pretty quick. Then there's the final kill in the "rain" which could've been sweet had it not ended with a few shots of a nail gun. Still, Denzel kicks some ass in this movie.

**1 win and 5 nominations (per IMDb)**


    $80 million domestic ($218 million global)

**1 win and 8 nominations (per IMDb)**


    $101 million domestic ($192 million global)
I give an immense amount of credit to McQuarrie here, because clearly, he had Werner Herzog in mind for the role of The Zec when he wrote the script as there’s no else in the world who I could see playing this part. He’s only in a few scenes, but this puppet master figure is downright scary, sporting one discolored eye and missing most of his finger after having to CHEW THEM OFF IN PRISON! He’s cold and soulless and would make an excellent Bond villain. In fact he’s so compelling I’m actually bummed we don’t see more of him, and instead spend most of our time with Jai Courtney, which is obviously the opposite of what I want.
Marton Csokas is a pretty intimidating figure in this movie, desperate and merciless. He’s also a bit unassuming, his evil and rage masked by a smart jacket and pants, and with a tidy haircut. Then there’s the reveal of all his demonic, Cult of Cthulu tattoos and you begin to understand this guy is undoubtedly insane. Just look at that scene when he beats that construction boss within an inch of his, pounding away until you can only imagine there are chunks of face on his knuckles. For a moment you actually think McCall could have a problem taking this guy down…but no.

JACK REACHER is a lot more fun than it probably should have been. Remember that scene in STEP BROTHERS when Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly cheer as Steven Seagal snaps that dude's arm in one of his movies? Yeah, I have that same reaction when I watch Cruise beat one thug with the second thug's head in this movie. It's awesome. But as a whole, it's not as great and would've been rather forgettable without Crusie in the lead. EQUALIZER, on the other hand, benefits not only from a great lead performance but Fuqua's strong direction, a script that, despite having weak spots, explores the humanity of the character and some sweet action in its own right. Both are above-average thrillers thanks to the iconic stars in the title roles, but EQUALIZER has a lot more going for it as a whole.



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