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The Ending Of The Equalizer Explained

You've never been in a Home Mart. The company as seen in Antoine Fuqua's "The Equalizer" has no stores; it doesn't exist. Still, you know exactly what it looks like on the inside. It has the same polished concrete floor, the same high metal shelving, the same well-curated warehouse feel as every other big-box hardware store in America, regardless of the interior color scheme and which name is over the door. You've been in one, you've been in them all. You've been in one, you've been in Home Mart. Which makes it an interesting setting for the final set piece of an action thriller, prosaic in the extreme, the opposite of an exotic locale or secret military base in a volcano that you might expect to see.

But it fits for this film. In "The Equalizer," Denzel Washington plays Bob McCall, a former Marine and a Defense Intelligence Agency operative who has left his old life as an incredibly dangerous man behind him, having moved to Boston with his now-dead wife, and is now working at Home Mart. But McCall's helpful instincts lead to him becoming entangled with the Russian mob, and all his other instincts lead to him becoming quite a problem for them. In the end, the enforcer Nikolai Itchenko (Marton Csokas) is dispatched to the Home Mart to threaten McCall's co-workers until he gives himself up. But trying to hit McCall close to home backfires for the mobsters. 

Why The Equalizer's final battle is set in a hardware store

The Home Mart is Bob McCall's home turf. He's familiar with the lights and with the sound system and with the cameras; even in the dark, he knows exactly where to go to get the barbed wire that he fashions into a snare and the pole saw with which he stabs a guy in the neck. So confident is he in the advantages the terrain provides him that McCall eschews the chance to collect the weapons of the gangsters he defeats, giving the first's pistol to overwhelmed but brave new security guard Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis) and leaving another's rifle dangling in the air with his body. When the time for his final confrontation with Nikolai Itchenko comes, McCall defeats him with a nail gun.

The decision to eschew weapons in favor of improvised booby traps and hardware as if he's a grown-up Kevin McCallister is also a thematic one. The rifles and tactical gear the mob enforcers use make them indistinguishable from soldiers, all of which belongs to McCall's old life. In the film, he uses the same skills he learned there to come to the aid of regular people, in this case, originally, the teenage Alina (Chloe Grace Moretz), who's under the thumb of the Russian mafia. The Home Mart battle is the ultimate melding of McCall's two worlds, his old job and his new one, his superhero-like persona and the secret identity he's been living for years. It is the revenge of the common man, carried out by a very uncommon one.

How The Equalizer set up its sequel

The movie doesn't end with Bob McCall dismantling Nikolai Itchenko and his goons. In the aftermath, McCall travels all the way to Russia to finish the final boss, Pushkin (Vladimir Kulich), then, loose ends all tied up, he posts an ad online identifying himself as The Equalizer and offering to help people in need who might benefit from his skillset. This is both a nod to the film's source material, the 1980's CBS series "The Equalizer," which used a similar set-up, and what would seem to be a pretty good set-up for a sequel, with a McCall who's not interested in slipping back into the confines of his old life.

But when its sequel came along in 2018, McCall's work as a champion of the common man was relegated mostly to the subplots, with the main thrust of the drama coming from his investigation of the murder of his CIA contact Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo). "The Equalizer 2" concludes with a similar battle between McCall and a rogue CIA team led by Dave York (Pedro Pascal), where McCall lures his enemies to his hometown, which is being battered by a hurricane, and picks them off one-by-one using knives, improvised explosives, and even a harpoon gun, perhaps a nod to doing a nail gun bigger and better.

If "The Equalizer 3" ever happens, the bad guys would do well to lure McCall into an unfamiliar environment. It probably won't do them any good, but the alternative certainly isn't working.