The Equalizer (2014)

Tattoo Signals

Standard fare: good guy is endowed with superhuman killing capability, presumably used in the past for what the Agency thought was good. In simple retirement, he is drawn by his sheer goodness into massive, efficient elimination of the bad guys. There isn’t much else to this.

What’s interesting here are three stereotypes that have enough currency that nothing has to be explained.

• Despite what we know of decades of incompetence, if someone is hinted at having field experience, we assume he (or she) is essentially invincible. Is this just from James Bond? Is it a tacit pride in having our guys be badasses? Do some American viewers feel empowered by this?

• What we know of the Russians is that their gangsters are distributed in small groups and that oligarchs aren’t involved. They make their money by state-granted monopolies and the graft, while prevalent is notably non-violent. Yet the mere mention or Russian gangsters with profoundly loyal minions (why?) is enough to assure us that they are worse than any other organised violent group we have.

• Tattoos. Now this is fascinating. Most of what we know of the Russians is that they are heavily tattooed. 25 years ago, tattoos and motorcycle gangs were conflated and in films we knew the Japanese gangsters by their tattoos.

But today, every kid with $50 has tattoos, and many of them try to project toughness. Is it just that these bad guys have thicker lines and cover more skin?

Here, all we have to see is a holdup man with tattoos (and a skull keychain) and we know all we need to.

Posted in 2015

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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