Updated: Jan 3, 2019
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2014; R for strong bloody violence, profanity throughout, including some sexual references; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNow (4K), Google Play, iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: “Joining Forces Again: Washington and Fuqua”
IT SHOULDN’T surprise anyone. Denzel Washington’s 2014 actioner “The Equalizer” made its way to 4K Ultra HD just as its sequel hit the multiplex.
For the folks at Sony, it has all of the earmarks of a sound investment. First, a successful theatrical run with an opening worldwide box office of nearly $200 million. Starring one of Hollywood’s best, a two-time Oscar winner with a huge fan base, “The Equalizer” met the studio's 4K upgrade criteria of being part of a franchise, a significant anniversary, or a reboot in the works.
The script from Richard Wenk (“The Magnificent Seven,” 2016) was based on the ‘80s CBS TV series, “The Equalizer,” starring British actor Edward Woodward as former U.S. intelligence agent Robert McCall. McCall spent his retirement using his special skills and contacts to help the helpless in New York City.
Wenk’s high-impact morality tale was also set in NYC, but director Antoine Fuqua had other ideas. He wanted to use Boston for the setting. He had directed Washington in his Oscar-winning role in “Training Days,” and the recent reboot of “The Magnificent Seven,” in which the actor played another righteous character, Deputy U.S. Marshal Sam Chisholm, who, in turn was based on Bass Reeves, the first black deputy U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi River.
In the role of former black ops fighter McCall, Washington also felt Boston was the best location. “It’s blue collar and it’s white collar. It reminds me of Chicago, with real neighborhoods,” he says in one of six featurettes included on the 4K disc and streaming sites.
On the surface, McCall is a simple guy living in a Spartan apartment, who takes the bus to his job at a Home Depot-like box store. Still, there is mystery surrounding the lonely widower who fights insomnia at an all-night diner. McCall sits near the front window sipping tea at 2 a.m. and reading classics like Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.”
Most nights he converses with teenage prostitute Alina aka Teri played by Chloë Grace Moretz, who dreams of becoming a singer. Moretz visited a Boston shelter for abused and runaway girls to prepare for the role; her look references Jodie Foster’s role in “Taxi Driver.” Teri is trapped in a world run by Russian sex traffickers, and ends up in a hospital after a beating. McCall decides to track down the culprits with hopes to buy her freedom. It’s the first of many such acts he’ll perform to help others.
War between McCall and the Russian gangsters is inevitable. A Russian assassin, “Teddy” (Marton Csokas), is called into action to eliminate McCall after he takes out five guys at the escort headquarters. “We wanted more than a villain,” says co-producer Jason Blumenthal describing Csokas’ character. “We wanted someone who was complex and unpredictable. Somebody we hadn’t seen before.” The story becomes a cat-and-mouse game between “two really smart monsters. One on the side of good, one on the side of evil,” Blumenthal says in “A Villain’s Psychosis.”
Five-minutes of deleted scenes are provided on the 4K disc and streaming sites. They include "McCall’s Epilogue," with Alina singing at a local club, as McCall watches, which is a teaser to “The Equalizer 2,” that reunites Fuqua and Washington.
HDR toning is the real winner in this 4K upconversion from a 2K master. It was originally sourced from Arriraw 2.8K digital cameras mounted with anamorphic lens to give the film a 1970s optical look. Detail is excellent. A floral shop near a Boston bridge was transformed by Oscar-winning production designer Leslie E. Rollins into the diner McCall frequents to mimic the famous Edward Hopper painting, “Nighthawks.”
The majority of “The Equalizer” was captured at night, and HDR contrast levels produce a striking picture, with much deeper blacks and expanded shadow detail. Facial toning is natural, with the rest of the color palette bold and rich, especially the reds.
There’s a slight uptick in resolution compared to the older Blu-ray, with more refined detail on faces and fabric texture, while distant shots of Boston’s skyline and bridges look sharper. The 4K upgrade is a good investment – especially for folks with a setup of 65-inches or larger.
The remastered Dolby Atmos soundtrack expands the soundstage from ceiling to floor and front to back, while the subwoofer gets a workout during the action sequences and tunes "Givin' Em What They Love" with Janell Monáe and Prince and Eminem's "Guts Over Fear." Height speakers are extremely active with effects, and electronic music cues from British composer Harry Gregson-Williams. He has handled a number of Washington films including “Man on Fire,” “Déjà Vu,” “The Taking of Pelham 123,” “Unstoppable” and “The Equalizer 2.”
It’s easy to see, with this kind of talent, how “The Equalizer” could become an ongoing series for Fuqua and Washington.
― Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer