Tag Archives: Denzel Washington

Inside Man (2006) Review

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and offensive language
Cast:
Denzel Washington as Detective Keith Frazier
Clive Owen as Dalton Russell
Jodie Foster as Madeleine White
Christopher Plummer as Arthur Case
Willem Dafoe as Captain John Darius
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Detective Bill Mitchell
Director: Spike Lee

The mastermind behind a bank robbery in Manhattan (Clive Owen) has planned the heist in great detail. A detective (Denzel Washington) tries to negotiate with him, but the involvement of a broker worsens the situation further.

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I recall Inside Man being the first movie I saw from director Spike Lee, I remember from that first viewing finding it to be a really good heist movie. Revisiting it more recently, it still holds up really well today, even if I wouldn’t call it one of Spike’s all time best work.

Inside Man takes the familiar heist scenario and has a fresh take on it, with large parts of it feeling different from your average American heist thriller. The story structure is unique and keeps you guessing, with some clever plotting. The story itself was entertaining and I was gripped throughout, I was interested as to how things would play out. It effectively builds up a lot of tension over the course of the film, giving you just enough information to put you on edge throughout. There is even some humour sprinkled throughout, even though its first and foremost a crime thriller. While on the surface, Inside Man seems like one of the only Spike Lee movie that doesn’t have a political edge to it, the movie is full of little moments of social commentary that we’ve come to expect him to include. Themes of racism, corruption and greed are threaded into this story of cops and robbers seamlessly. There are definitely some issues, you can definitely tell this is a movie whose script wasn’t written by Spike Lee. Although I liked some of the more humorous moments, there were some moments that I thought were a little too silly and even annoying. There are some really cartoonish and stereotypical side characters just to be random for a scene or two, and I think they really could’ve been dialled down. There is also a bit of clunky exposition towards the end, but on the whole I thought the ending works well enough.

There is a tremendous cast involved. Denzel Washington is in the lead role as the main cop trying to deal with this heist. Washington has the on-screen presence and charisma you’d expect from him, and he delivers on his part as to be expected. Clive Owen gives one of his best performances as the main bank robber, even when his face isn’t really shown for the majority of the movie he really makes an impression. Other supporting actors like Jodie Foster, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Plummer and Chiwetel Ejiofor also play their parts well. The only acting that wasn’t working as well for me was some of the previously mentioned ‘random’ side characters, and some of the hostages. They could be annoying at times but not enough to bring down the movie that much.

Spike Lee’s directing is great and gives the movie such a contagious energy, enhancing the already solid script. The film is well shot, with some great and dynamic cinematography. At times it looks a little dated, like its very much a mid 2000s movie, however at least it works as a movie from that time period. The camera effectively spins and moves around the bank, enhancing the anxiety of the situation and creating a tense environment. Much of the film’s style feels akin to that of a Tony Scott movie. However, it is still a very much a Spike Lee movie with his trademark filming style on display, even the classic Spike Lee double dolly shot makes a memorable appearance.

Inside Man is a clever, suspenseful and well-constructed heist thriller, and very likely Spike Lee’s most accessible movie. The writing, directing and acting are all really solid and work together to make a very entertaining movie. I wouldn’t say that it’s one of the best heist movies ever made, or one of Spike’s best, but it is still really good, and it’s one well worth checking out.

Crimson Tide (1995) Review

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Crimson Tide

Time: 110 Minutes
Cast:
Denzel Washington as Lieutenant Commander Ron Hunter
Gene Hackman as Captain Frank Ramsey
George Dzundza as Chief of the Boat Walters (COB)
Matt Craven as Lieutenant Roy Zimmer
Viggo Mortensen as Lieutenant Peter Ince
James Gandolfini as Lieutenant Bobby Dougherty
Director: Tony Scott

The Captain of a submarine (Gene Hackman) wants to launch an attack while his deputy (Denzel Washington) wants to wait for confirmation. Their conflict escalates into a mutiny with both of them fighting for the command of the ship.

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I heard of Crimson Tide for a while, I knew of it as a submarine movie directed by Tony Scott and starring Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman. It was on my list of movies to check out eventually but for whatever reason I hadn’t checked it out yet. Eventually I did watch it and I was quite surprised at how good it was.

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The plot is great, it is a predictable yet entertaining story. It is always so kinetic from beginning to end, tightly crafted, and just all around suspenseful, with never a dull moment here. The pacing is just right, it can feel a little slow in the beginning as it is setting the scene and characters, but once it gets going, it really gets going. The second and third acts are particularly intense, without a stopping point. One of the biggest surprises is that it places character and conflict ahead of the action. Usually you’d expect this type of film to constantly cut away to the action as the drama unfolds, however Tony Scott keeps the distractions to a minimum, and it’s generally a very contained movie. The majority of the movie focuses its attention on the colliding ideals of the weathered Lieutenant Commander (Gene Hackman), and his vigilant new XO Captain (Denzel Washington). The moral greyness of the dilemma at the forefront of the movie is well handled, with a surprising amount of depth given to the nature of military procedure in the case of an emergency launch, and the importance of following protocol. Much of the tension the movie wrings from the internal conflict between the two leads, particularly with the tense and heated dialogue. As everything slowly builds up within that clash of ideologies, it just only feels like you could expect it all to blow anytime soon. Scott really drives home the fact that these men are alone, with just as many questions as the audience. Something also great is that despite some of what Hackman’s character does, there’s no clear-cut villain here really, just two men who both firmly believe that they are doing the right thing. Quentin Tarantino actually did some script-doctoring on this movie, but his contributions were probably the weakest part of the movie, with the comic book and Star Trek references being very out of place with the rest of the movie. On the whole though, Crimson Tide is very entertaining and thrilling from beginning to end.

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The acting is great from everyone, but it mostly comes down to Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington in the lead roles, both of whom deliver really solid performances. It’s thrilling seeing the two go at each other. I do feel like Washington’s character could’ve been better developed or defined really, though he did the job alright. Hackman’s character of Ramsey (the commander) however is very well written, with a good character arc. The supporting cast all bring their A-games too including James Gandolfini and Viggo Mortensen.

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Tony Scott’s direction is great and handles everything well. He keeps everything so fittingly tense, especially given the claustrophobia of the film’s setting, as well as strain applied to the ticking clock elements. It’s a great looking movie too, it looks fantastic with the colours, the set designs are convincing, and even the early CGI special effects are used appropriately enough. Finally, Hans Zimmer composes a bombastic yet very effective score.

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Crimson Tide is an effective and claustrophobic submarine thriller, and much better than I thought it would be. The story is simple yet one that you get invested in, it’s directed incredibly well, tense throughout, and has some strong performances, especially from Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington. One of Tony Scott’s best.

The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021) Review

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The Tragedy of Macbeth

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Denzel Washington as Lord Macbeth
Frances McDormand as Lady Macbeth
Corey Hawkins as Macduff
Brendan Gleeson as King Duncan
Harry Melling as Malcolm
Director: Joel Coen

A Scottish lord becomes convinced by a trio of witches that he will become the next King of Scotland. His ambitious wife will do anything to support him in his plans of seizing power.

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There are already plenty of adaptations of Macbeth out there, and it’s a little hard for me to get into any movies based on Williams Shakespeare’s work (mainly because of the dialogue). However, Joel Coen taking on the material had me highly anticipating his Macbeth movie, along with adding actors like Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand. The Tragedy of Macbeth is an atmospheric, and moody Shakespeare adaptation, and with strong performances and direction.

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There’s not really much to say about Macbeth’s writing since its still very much Shakespeare’s classic play. With that comes with the same confusing Shakespeare language and unless you’re very familiar with that kind of speech, it would probably be a problem for you. So if you’re going to watch it, its either best to watch it with subtitles on, or read up about the play beforehand to know what was happening. It was great getting to watch the movie in cinemas, but I do admit that I wished I had subtitles on. Thankfully, I knew the general plot having watched the 2015 Macbeth movie so I had an idea of where everything was going. I didn’t understand what was being said most of the time, but I expected that when I willingly watched a Macbeth movie. There really wasn’t anything new brought to the story thematically, it’s just the distinct style, but I guess that’s all that was needed.

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There is a great cast involved. Denzel Washington is fantastic as Macbeth and delivers a powerhouse of a performance. Masterful, compelling, and a great on screen presence, its one of his best acting works I’ve seen from him. Frances McDormand is also really good as Lady Macbeth, she is in great command of every scene she’s in. Kathryn Hunter is also notable in her croaking, contortionist turn as the three witches, she is incredible in her scenes. Other actors like Corey Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, and Harry Melling also play their parts very well, but its Washington, McDormand and Hunter that stand out the most.

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As said before, Joel Coen directs this, and The Tragedy of Macbeth is very different from anything that the Coen brothers have done before. Its very bold and unconventional, it’s a technical marvel and one of the biggest strengths of the movie.  The presentation is haunting, and the world portrayed here is very off kilter. The cinematography from Bruno Delbonnel is easily one of the best from 2021. In a way it is very minimalist but incredibly effective. You get caught up in its gorgeous black and white photography, with the German expressionism inspired and brutalist look, along with the 4:3 framing making the film feel very contained. The lighting, dense shadows, and the use of fog and smoke go towards giving it a haunting atmosphere. The sets are classic and old school, it felt like stage play sets with grandiose buildings. The editing is simple yet effective, and the transitions are seamless. The sound design is striking, and the score works incredibly well for the tone of the movie. An impressive part of the movie is that it manages to be both theatrical and cinematic. On a cinematic level it goes into the surreal with the memorable imagery. Yet it also works on a theatrical level, aspects like the dialogue heavy interactions, the long monologues, characters entering and exiting scenes, they all work together.

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The Tragedy of Macbeth is very much an art film and a Shakespeare movie, so it definitely isn’t for everyone. But if you know what you’re getting into, I’d say that it is well worth a watch. It’s a superb technical achievement from the direction, cinematography and editing, and it has some excellent performances, especially from Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand and Kathryn Hunter. At the very least, it stands out as the Coens’ most distinct works.

The Equalizer 2 (2018) Review

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains graphic violence, drug use & offensive language
Cast:
Denzel Washington as Robert McCall
Pedro Pascal as Dave York
Ashton Sanders as Miles Whittaker
Bill Pullman as Brian Plummer
Melissa Leo as Susan Plummer
Director: Antoine Fuqua

Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) returns to deliver his special brand of vigilante justice when thugs kill his friend and former colleague.

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I liked the first Equalizer by Antoine Fuqua, it was almost like a throwback to violent vigilante action movies from the 70s and 80s and was entertaining, with Denzel Washington as the titular “Equalizer” playing a large part of that. It’s not going to rank among even the best action movies of recent years but it was still enjoyable for what it was. 4 years late, Fuqua and Washington return for a sequel and while The Equalizer didn’t really need one, I was nonetheless interested in seeing what they would have next in store for us. Getting this out of the way, The Equalizer 2 is not as good as the first movie. It has some plot issues, mostly with the unfocussed plot and the fact that the pacing can be just a little too slow. However it is still decent enough, and Denzel Washington once again is great.

The plot and writing of The Equalizer 2 is a mixed bag. On one hand, The Equalizer 2 does have some more emotional depth than the first, it’s not hugely emotional but it is there. It’s also got a lot more going on, which ended up being more of a problem. Despite the length of the movie, the first Equalizer was a pretty straightforward movie that was quite focussed on its plot. The Equalizer 2 has some subplots, and most of them would only fit in well with the movie if it was a mini series instead. There is a subplot with Denzel and a teenager (played by Ashton Sanders) which really does work, the others don’t work as well unfortunately and deviate and distract from the main plot. Even the main plot has some problems. While it seems straightforward (Denzel’s friend is killed, he goes after whoever is responsible), it takes a long time to go through it. The second half of the movie however, it does pick up and becomes more focussed on the plotline but before that we’re just waiting for things to move along. The Equalizer 2 is a little shorter than the first movie, at 2 hours. Despite this, the second movie feels rather slow. Now it’s probably because it was meant to be a much slower and smaller movie, you don’t even get many characters here. However, I think it was a little too slow for its own good, and most of it is to do with the unfocussed plot.

There aren’t too many actors who stand out here outside of Denzel but they do their part well. Denzel Washington remains effortlessly capable in his role. He can switch from likable guy, to becoming very threatening and dangerous within a second. The first movie was him reaching his breaking point and taking action, this movie has him actively going out and taking action quite often. The villain here is just as strong as the villain in the first movie, he’s not as memorable but he does seem to have more to the character than just “generic Russian villain”. However with his character being a twist reveal (which you can see coming), we don’t really get enough screentime with him as the villain and once again, not as memorable. However the character and the actor did their part. Also, all the villains here in general were not cartoonishly one dimensional and over the top like with the first movie.

Antoine Fuqua’s direction once again was great for the most part. The action scenes are fast and brutal, maybe a little too violent. As mentioned previously, there wasn’t as many fight/action scenes as in the first movie. Something I did notice with the action scenes, particularly with the fight scenes with Denzel is that there were more cuts compared to the previous movie. The only thing I can think of is that Denzel being 4 years older couldn’t really perform all the stunts and so they tried to hide that.

The Equalizer 2 isn’t as good as the first movie but it is still entertaining, with Denzel Washington once again being the main highlight. If you liked the first movie, the second is worth a watch, otherwise this new movie won’t change your mind. While I have a feeling that we won’t get an Equalizer 3 (especially releasing it alongside Mamma Mia 2), I wouldn’t be opposed to it if it happened, hopefully it just takes the best elements of both movies and doesn’t make the same mistakes.

The Equalizer (2014) Review

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence, sexual themes & offensive language.
Cast:
Denzel Washington as Robert “Bob” McCall
Marton Csokas as Teddy Rensen/Nicolai Itchenko
Chloë Grace Moretz as Alina/Teri
Melissa Leo as Susan Plummer
Bill Pullman as Brian Plummer
Johnny Skourtis as Ralph/”Ralphie”
Haley Bennett as Mandy
David Harbour as Frank Masters
Director: Antoine Fuqua

Robert McCall (Denzel Washington), a man of mysterious origin who believes he has put the past behind him, dedicates himself to creating a quiet new life. However, when he meets Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a teenager who has been manhandled by violent Russian mobsters, he simply cannot walk away. With his set of formidable skills, McCall comes out of self-imposed retirement and emerges as an avenging angel, ready to take down anyone who brutalizes the helpless.

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With The Equalizer 2 coming soon, I decided to check out the original movie released in 2014 (it was the second time I saw it). The Equalizer is loosely based on the tv series of the same name. Antoine Fuqua is a director I really like, with Training Day, Southpaw, Olympus Has Fallen and even King Arthur (yes I like it), he’s done a lot of impressive work. He brings his solid direction here to make The Equalizer a brutal yet entertaining action movie, that’s maybe a tad overlong.

The plot is rather straightforward, a particular event compels a likable but dangerous and capable main character to take action. There’s nothing particularly special about the plot, but most of the time it keeps your attention and you are entertained throughout. There aren’t many issues with the movie. If there is a slight ‘problem’ it’s that most of the time, Denzel Washington doesn’t really encounter a lot of problems. Even with the Marton Csokas character, for most of the movie he feels like he’s on top of things. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there’s not really a lot of tension. You only feel like he’s in some form of danger in the climax. Also the Equalizer is about 2 hour and 10 minutes long, which is a tad too long. I think some of the beginning segment was a little too long with the scenes of him being normal and before taking action. The moment he decides to take action though, the movie really picks up. Outside of that there aren’t too many issues.

Denzel Washington is effortlessly good in the role of Robert McCall. He is believable in the role, has his typical Denzel charisma and likability and really works as the main character. Marton Csokas is really good as the main villain, his character is sent in to fix up the situation that Washington causes early on. Csokas is very menacing and commands a whole lot of attention and precense. He also makes up for a lot of the lacklustre villains in the movie, who are mostly cartoonish and one dimensional. Chloe Grace Moretz, despite her character being one of the main motivations for what Washington does, doesn’t appear very often but she’s good in the scenes that she’s in.

Antoine Fuqua’s direction really works here. Like with some of Fuqua’s other action movies, this is a hard R action movie and it is really quite violent. Denzel Washington dispatches many people effortlessly and brutally, and it’s kinda glorious to watch. If you are a squeamish person, The Equalizer is really not for you at all. While the fight and action scenes are entertaining, the climax which takes place in a hardware store was the highlight of the movie. Not only was it creative, but it’s also one of the only times when McCall seems like he’s in danger.

The Equalizer is a very solid action movie, Denzel Washington and Marton Csokas are both good in their roles, Antoine Fuqua’s direction really worked and it was just really entertaining overall. It might’ve been a little long and was sort of predictable and familiar but outside of that it worked very well for what it is. With Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua returning for the sequel 4 years later, I’m looking forward to it.