Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Equalize This!

So, they're rebooting The Equalizer. Or, more to the point, they're adapting the original CBS television series, which ran from 1985-1989, into a new feature film. We're already off to a bad start as it is by pure virtue of this movie being made in the first place, but then consider that it's not a period piece, it's going to be filmed in Boston, and it already has 8 (EIGHT!) producers listed. While the chosen star, Denzel Washington, doesn't quite fit the same mold as Edward Woodward's original grey-haired baddie slayer, I can actually at least see him in the role as a modern day equivalent. Shame that "The Equalizer" of The Equalizer is just one quarter of why the original series worked so well.

Completely by coincidence I have actually been watching series one of The Equalizer for the past week. I've always had a particular fondness for the series, without ever being able to recall much about it other than it was set in New York City and starred a man with a really funny name. I remember being a wee tyke and when I should've been in bed I was spying on my parents watching The Equalizer in the living room. The images stuck. It's curious that this show was surely the first known existence of New York City and I happening upon one another and yet I grew an instant love for the city. I mean, The Equalizer doesn't exactly paint the rosiest of portraits for the greatest city in the world, and yet still something about those analogue city lights must have really gotten to me. I have distinct memories of the images, if not the stories. Of course, there is that blue fog shot from the opening credits that strikes me as rather iconic, too.

I'm not sure if The Equalizer could be made as a series today. The fact that it deals with rapists, murderers, kidnappers, fraudsters and stalkers certainly seems like prime time material in 2012, but the filming style and the evocative sense of time and place is - quite frankly - something that can't be replicated. The New York City of 2012 is a much different one to that of 1985. Sure, there are still all sorts of nasty crimes and villainous creeps out there, but the city, from a purely visual standpoint, had an aura that makes for some truly skeazy viewing. The opening credits (below) alone are a thrilling piece of decaying Manhattan imagery. It's just not going to be the same to see "The Equalizer" (whatever back story he may take) cleaning up the human trash of a city that's actually really sparkly. A city where a late night stroll down the street - hell, even under the Brooklyn Bridge! - is a picturesque night out rather than a terrifying, traumatic experience for all. The Equalizer in a city where looking behind you ever thirty seconds once the sun as set doesn't quite make sense. He was essentially cleaning up a dying city one scumbag at a time, but does the city need him that badly anymore? Wait, are we talking about The Equalizer or Christopher Nolan's Batman movies? In episode four a character walks through Times Square passed a theatre that is playing Bordello starring Linda Lovelace!

Similarly, one of the great aspects of the series is its frequent and recurring use of New York locations. Within the pilot episode alone we see the following shots. It's a glorious show to look at if, like me, you're a bit obsessed with New York City of all eras. Could a current television series even afford to do this? Girls is mostly Brooklyn, the Law & Order franchise don't make much use of big New York imagery, nor do any others that I can think of. There's a car chase on the Brooklyn Bridge for crying out loud!

Sorry, I got carried away. But what character, what atmosphere. That blue white light that the buildings have in the night sky is entrancing.

After Woodward, Manhattan, and 1985, the final element that truly made The Equalizer what it was was the music of Stewart Copeland. I think we can all agree that his work on this series was by far the greatest thing anybody associated with The Police ever did (okay, maybe "El Tango de Roxanne" from Moulin Rouge!, but oh my lord how much do I hate Sting and The Police? SO MUCH!) Much like Jan Hammer's work on Miami Vice before it, and Angelo Badalamenti's Twin Peaks afterwards, Copeland's score was the pulsating, electric beat that kept this dangerous city moving. And yet despite all of the blaring synthesizers and electric drums, there are unique and surprising instruments scattered about to make it really interesting. Love it.

"The Equalizer Busy Equalizing" | "Lurking Solo"

This new spin on The Equalizer being filmed in Boston is just crazy. Perhaps this new version, based on a script by Richard Wenk, will be set in Boston and they can utilise that city's look to their advantage, but then why bother even calling it The Equalizer? I know the series has a cult following, but I wasn't aware of it being all that much of a brand. Certainly not as much as some other series of the time that have already been turned into modern day features.

It's always good to see a classy thriller, and with a budget of just $50mil (Washington apparently getting $20mil of that so you can do the maths) it will fall into that mid-range sweet spot that studios seem to be finding themselves attracted to more and more as the budgets for their action blockbuster tentpoles skyrocket leaving less money to be spent elsewhere. Washington usually delivers the goods in these type of projects and perhaps whoever they assign to direct will be able to lend it a visual style that works in harmony with the memories of the original series. One name brought up in the linked article up top is Nicolas Winding Refn and I think we all know where I stand on him and his own retro masterpiece, Drive.

The odds, as Robert McCall might say, are certainly against them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I only got into this show because I knew Sandy Dennis did a guest spot so I bought the DVD. So far I've only watched her episode but you've made me curious to check out more.