The last two months have seen a few big stars helm R-rated serious-toned movies with quite a degree of success. Two of these movies that have drawn attention are The Equalizer and John Wick. The Denzel Washington starrer The Equalizer released towards the end of September while the Keanu Reeves starrer John Wick released towards the end of October in the USA. I however managed to catch these two flicks only recently, and enjoyed both immensely. While these films had differing styles of presentation, there were some striking similarities that would be tough to ignore. These points just grabbed my attention.
Similarity #1: Action movies where the hero has to return to his former life
This is the most obvious similarity in the themes of both the films. In The Equalizer, Denzel Washington has a mysterious past, likely to be that of a government operative, which he had walked away from by faking his own death. In John Wick, Keanu Reeves had operated as a ruthless assassin before, which he shuns to start over afresh. In both the films, the hero has to return back to his old self and become a ‘killing machine’ again. An effective killing machine!
Similarity #2: Hero driven by personal motivation to right a wrong
In both the movies, the reason for the heroes returning to their old ways of living has nothing to do with some greater good. It is in fact very personal. In The Equalizer, Denzel Washington can not stand back when a teenager he had befriended gets beaten up badly. In John Wick, Keanu Reeves is enraged when his dog, a gift from his wife, is killed. Push a man enough and he will fight back; push a dangerous man and he will destroy you!
Similarity #3: Ability to kill with ordinary items
The ability of both the heroes to use everyday objects lying around them as weapons adds an element of fun to the action. It is more so exaggerated in the Equalizer, where Denzel Washington never uses a gun of his own, and instead kills with items like a corkscrew, a book, a power drill, a nail gun, a microwave owen, and some more. In John Wick, Keanu Reeves is at ease with a gun in his hand as the body count builds up, but there is the narrative on how he killed three men with a pencil, which appears to be a reference to the novel “Shibumi” in which the hero (a retired assassin) also kills with everyday objects (in one scene in the movie, a security guard is also shown reading the novel “Shibumi”).
Similarity #4: Wear Black
You never fight without wearing something black. That seems to be the new rule of the game! We can debate on who looks the cooler of the two in black, but the more important thing is that it adds some element of darkness to the character and puts more style to the movie.
Similarity #5: Dead wife
Both the heroes are shown to be lonely characters who have lost their wives whom they deeply loved. In The Equalizer, the mention of the wife is limited and Denzel Washington’s pain is shown in fleeting moments. In John Wick, the sentimental touch is stronger; Bridget Moynahan even plays the wife in brief scenes.
Similarity #6: The slow motion walk
This may seem so 80’s, but now and then, the entry or exit of an action hero in slow motion with something burning in the background just looks good on the big screen. Both Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves put a masterly touch to their walk!
Similarity #7: Killing the Russians
It seems the Hollywood heroes aren’t going to spare the Russians any time soon. In The Equalizer, Denzel Washington has a personal duel on-going with the frightening Martin Csokas who is a Russian mob enforcer sent to avenge Washington’s actions. In John Wick, Keanu Reeves has to get the better of the wily Michael Nyqvist, head of a Russian crime syndicate, whose son he is hunting.
Similarity #8: Outside help from stars in cameo roles
Alright, maybe I am just finding unnecessary correlations, but I think this one fits. In The Equalizer, Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo have brief roles in which they assist Denzel Washington in his actions. In John Wick, Ian McShane makes a couple of brief appearances to assist Keanu Reeves and set him on the right track. Even Willem Dafoe provides a helping hand now and then, but his role was sizable enough to not be termed as a cameo.
Action movies would generally carry a lot of similarities amongst them, but when two of them release in such a short period, then these similarities really stand out. Maybe if you think harder, you may even find more. How about the final fight happening in drenched conditions in both the movies, from the fire sprinklers in The Equalizer and from natural rain in John Wick!?