Saturday, July 16, 2016

Today's Lone Rangers

Reflections on “The Equalizer” and “A Walk among the Tombstones” (2014)

Having access to another country’s Netflix stream last week, I managed to see a couple of movies that seemed interesting at the time they came out, but not enough for me to seek them out. And it was only after watching them that I realized that they were almost the same movie, released at roughly the same time.

“The Equalizer” tells the story of Robert, an ex-black-ops agent who is trying to live a “normal” life. However, the injustices he sees around him, especially when it comes to a teen girl caught up in sex slavery, cause him to revert to his calculating assassin mode of living. In the end, he sees the good that he can accomplish by being who he truly is, and he decides to keep up his vigilante activity.

“A Walk among the Tombstones” is a similar story. Matt is an ex-cop who works as an “unlicensed detective.” When he is approached by a drug dealer to help him find the murderers of his wife, Matt initially declines. However, he soon realizes that he is dealing with some particularly evil serial killers, and evil needs to be stopped even when it is targeting bad people. Matt’s story is interesting beyond the mere action of it all because he is a recovering alcoholic, and the Twelve Step program plays an important role.

This story is one that has fascinated America forever; one man standing against injustice, the lone ranger figure. Why are we so enamored with it? Is it a mistrust of the system, a suspicion that the powers that be are the bad guys? Or is it just a fear that they are incompetent to really help? In a y case, Americans have always been ones to stand up for themselves, take care of their own problems where they can.

But things have changed since the days of the white-hatted cowboy standing for truth and justice. Back then the bad guys were little better than bullies and the good guys might have carried a gun, but no one ever got killed. Today the evil depicted in these fantasies—and the ones we read about in the news—are truly despicable. Unimaginable really. And the good guys are sometimes hard to distinguish from the bad. Their compulsions are just as disturbing; their hunger for violence unsettling. Denzel Washington may never pick up a gun in “The Equalizer,” but he finds even more bloody and painful ways to dispatch his targets.

And yet, we can’t turn our eyes away. Is it the desire to see justice, or a thirst for righteous revenge?

“The Equalizer” is based on a TV series and promises more films to come. Matt Scudder is the star detective of a series of books, most of whom deal with the religious aspects of his hard boiled world. I find myself drawn to more of these stories. I hope that is OK.

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