2014 saw the release of The Equalizer with Denzel Washington playing retired CIA operative, Robert McCall. Reeling from the loss of his beloved wife, he has sought refuge of sorts as an employee of the local boxed home improvement store (actually shot in an old Lowe’s store but called something else entirely so they didn’t have to pay licensing fees). It was a fresh reboot of the 1980’s TV series which had Edward Woodward (RIP) playing an aged agent who puts an ad in the newspaper to help those who can’t help themselves. The first Equalizer film was a brutally violent, gritty and immensely satisfying thriller. Equalizer 2 pretty much picks up where the last film left us.
Having walked off his job, so to speak from the last film, Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is now living in another apartment, even though he still maintains two other residences. He is a Lyft driver by day and a vigilante by night, or thereabouts. As this film opens he is in Turkey on a train with some real pieces of trash finding a little girl who has been kidnapped by her abusive father. Dispatching scum is something McCall does with relative ease but it is still fun to watch him slice, dice, skewer and break his villainous counterparts.
When a dear friend is murdered, McCall suspects something is amiss but is not sure what. He enlists the help of his old buddy Dave York (Pedro Pascal) who is still an active agent. When the actual villains turn out to be a lot closer to home and threaten other people that McCall cares about, he vaults into action to settle the score. His neighbor, Miles Whittaker (Ashton Sanders) is the one in the cross-hairs that McCall must protect. Miles is a good kid, a very talented artist but is starting to mix with the wrong crowd. As is the case in a few other Denzel Washington films, the hero is mentoring these wayward youths and this is the case with Equalizer 2.
In fact, there is a lot of Equalizer 2 that feels awfully familiar which I could have dealt with a lot better if the villains were not so standard. These kinds of films are really only as good as the villain is nasty. McCall had a formidable villain in the first Equalizer. Teddy (Martin Csokas) was an exceedingly violent man with a flash-fire temper and no respect for human life. “I regard sentimentality as something that must be removed like lint or a bottle cap,” he mused in the classic face off between McCall and Teddy. There is not that kind of tension in Equalizer 2. Teddy was someone that McCall had his hands full. Good always triumphs in the movies, but at least there was an inkling that McCall might have met his match. That is not the case in Equalizer 2.
The villains do their part to facilitate the story and are bad enough to provide menace, but unlike the first Equalizer, there was never a doubt that they were no match for Robert McCall. These guys are in over their head but they just don’t know it….yet. Denzel Washington delivers, as always. This guy could make paint drying look interesting. He runs the gamut from charming to lovable, sympathetic to a man possessed of revenge, justice and doing what is right. The plot that facilitates the bad guys and their motive is a recycled element that has been done thousands of times in other films. Here it is serviceable but, that is about it.This is not to say people won’t enjoy this film. I did, despite the shortcomings.
Antoine Fuqua returns as director and he knows how to frame and shoot tremendous action sequences, just like he did in the first film. His energt that he brings to his films is unmistakable. Fuqua is actually emerging as one of the better action directors in Hollywood having shot numerous action based films. This is his fourth film with Denzel and clearly they have a special bond. Mr. Fuqua directed Denzel to his Oscar win for Training Day in 2001. There are no awards for Equalizer 2, I am guessing. This is a fairly routine but ultimately enjoyable film. The cinematography and editing are excellent and make good use of the Boston locales. Harry Gregson-Williams returns with another stand-out score like he did for the first Equalizer.
As is the case with many sequels few exceed the first film and Equalizer 2 is no exception but Richard Wenk’s script could have used a rewrite this time around. He is an excellent writer, but all the other elements of Equalizer 2 are so top notch that his rudimentary script seems to weigh the film down. It all culminates to a rather predictable but satisfying climax in the middle of a violent storm. But not to worry, most people will not care. Denzel is there to lift this picture to the finish line and he does so with style, grace, charm and charisma. If only this film had some more of those qualities.
Equalizer 2 – ***1/2 out of 5
Equalizer 2 – Rated R for some harsh language, graphic violence, gore and adult situations
Equalizer 2 – Run time is 125 minutes
Equalizer 2 is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations nearest you.