THE EQUALIZER, a reboot of the popular 1980s series, stars Queen Latifah as Robyn McCall, a former CIA operative seeking redemption by using her skills to secretly help people who need it. After becoming disillusioned, McCall quit her covert CIA job and appears to be living an ordinary life with her 15-year-old daughter, Delilah (Laya Hayes), and her Aunt Vy (Lorraine Toussaint). But with the help of best friend and club owner Melody "Mel" Bayani (Liza Lapira), tech genius Harry Keshigian (Adam Goldberg), and former CIA operative William Bishop (Chris Noth), she goes out of her way to help innocent people who get caught in the middle of dangerous criminal operations. But Detective Marcus Dante (Terry Kittles) of the NYPD is a little unclear about what she does, or how she does it.
Unlike the original version and movie adaptations featuring imperturbable, lone-wolf vigilantes — seemingly without much backstory — Latifah puts a human face on a well-worn formula, grounding her character in reality. She has family, including her rambunctious 15-year-old daughter, Delilah (Laya DeLeon Hayes), and Aunt Vi (the great Lorraine Toussaint, with really nothing to do here), and friends. She has to figure out how to switch off the soldier inside of her, where she seems most at ease, and switch on the mother, where she seems to struggle most. She exists in two worlds, and there’s room throughout the season for the series to dig into that dichotomy. But there’s nothing in the episode that suggests it will. Latifah, who exudes instincts and casual confidence, isn’t given much that requires her to do anything but cruise on her charisma, and cash checks for however long the series run.
This second adaptation in the universe of The Equalizer isn’t produced to look or feel exactly like the other franchise installments, which includes the original series as well as the movies starring Denzel Washington. Queen Latifah successfully plays Robyn McCall as a strong, intelligent single mother who wants the best for her daughter, as well as for the people she is helping. Meanwhile, the folks she identifies as needing her help are mainly Black and Latinx individuals as well as those from other underrepresented communities, victims of systematic racism and other biases.
Despite these contemporary details, the overall show offers the same type of formulaic drama as other shows in the genre. Each episode's plotline is just elaborate enough to ensure that the innocent victims unwittingly caught up in any illegal activities are completely trapped in their situation, and to require McCall's sharp, tough-as-nails military and CIA training to infiltrate and bring wrongdoers to justice. It also has the standard eclectic team of colleagues helping McCall out, and just enough physical violence to give it some edge. The result is a show that looks different, feels predictable, but shines in the classic action sequences.
The action is smooth and exciting if a bit over-reliant on quick cuts and a moving camera. Robyn is an intriguing version of an archetypal character. Not only is her military and CIA experience a part of her backstory, but her experience as a Black woman informs her choices and style of vigilantism.
“The Equalizer” represents both a variation of its genre and as straight up a CBS drama as they come. Borne out of the cult ‘80s CBS show starring Edward Woodward and 2014 blockbuster starring Denzel Washington, the 2021 iteration of “The Equalizer” mashes the two versions together to create a basic show, it isn't going to break any records or win many awards, but it's simple, it has good fight sequences and it's always nice to see a beloved star get a role like this. And even more, the idea that one person can make a difference for those who have nowhere else to turn is appealing in a world where most of us are so powerless.
Final Score – [5.6/10]
Reviewed by – Ritika Kispotta
Follow her @KispottaRitika on Twitter (https://twitter.com/KispottaRitika)
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