The Equalizer 2


There was something perversely fascinating about watching a man of Denzel Washington’s infinite talents stab, punch, batter and shoot his way through The Equalizer, Antoine Fuqua’s savagely watchable vigilante thriller that landed in 2014. Essentially playing a middle-aged version of Marvel’s The Punisher only with much better people skills, the movie allowed us to witness “The Wash” look out for the little guy by decending on Russian mobsters like an impossibly righteous angel of death while dealing out self-help advice while tearing through goons like an A-list Michael Myers.
The result was a goofily savage way to harmlessly spend a couple of hours and the fact that it birthed a sequel a few years later was inevitable as one of Robert McCall’s surviving victims having to adjust to shitting in a bag for the rest of their days – however, would this second go round for Washington’s protector remain equal to the first?


OCD widower Robert McCall is continuing to use his training as a U.S. Marine to right the wrongs he sees each day as he travels around Boston as a Lyft driver, be it taking apart yuppie rapists or travelling to Istanbul to retrieve a young girl from her mobster father (that’s a big Lyft route, Robert). However, McCall has to put this life dedicated to solving violent side-quests and taking a young delinquent under his wing when Susan, his old friend from his time as a DIA agent, is murdered in France during an apparent robbery gone wrong.
However, her husband believes that there’s something rotten going on when its revealed that the killing blow was far too precise to just be attributed to your bog standard French thugs and the fact that Susan was looking into the highly suspicious murder/suicide of an agency affiliate makes things even more hinky. Choosing to look into this shameless fridging of a strong female character, Robert approaches his old partner, Dave York, who was also at the scene, with his findings and the two agree that the two instances are almost definitely related.
Of course, what with this being a vigilante movie, matters aren’t simply going to be resolved with a simple case of procedural deduction and when a proposed Lyft fare suddenly turns out to be a would-be assassin, McCall realises he’s opened up a can of worms that only he has the skills to be able to close.
Moving his busy schedule around in order to solve this mystery while still having time to lock horns with gangbangers, save the soul of a local graffiti artist and figuring out how to get back a painting of the sister of a Holocaust survivor, McCall starts dealing out some pain along with some worldly wisdom as he attempts to score some much needed justice as a literal storm is on the way.


The first Equalizer was a slick, competent thriller that saw its legendary leading man take his empathetic screen persona and channel it into the realms of the middle-aged action hero genre. The result was a fine, but hardly earth shattering action romp that attempted to add a little heart to a genre that’s famous for treating its secondary characters as collateral damage. Instead of having the little people killed and mauled in the quest to bring down the bad guys, the movie instead made protecting and aiding everyday folks it’s primary concern instead of making them a storytelling tool in order to make the villains seem more villainous.
However, while the first Equalizer trod that line fairly well by having Robert McCall’s unkillable do-gooder butt heads with Russian pimps to temporarily make the world a better place, the second movie ditches that in favour of keeping keeping his violent brand of community service as secondary plot threads. The main thrust of the film that sees McCall square up to corrupt former teammates in order to get even for the murder of a colleague may keep the action moving, but it’s also the plot of roughly 70% of action movies released over the last ten years and it sort of goes against the grain of the concept of both the first film and the tv show they’re both based on.
It’s somewhat frustrating because if the movie has decided to focus its action muscles on any of the other dangling threads, it would have kept the original notion alive and well. Surely if the film zeroed in on McCall protecting Ashton Sanders’ young artist from the lure of a street gang or concocted a plot around the missing painting of a elderly Jewish man, then it would have continued the thread of McCall beating criminals into slurry in order to aid the little guy – wait, are you saying you wouldn’t want to watch a plot about Washington beating on neo-nazis?


Anyway, matters continue stylistically well enough with Washington delivering yet another solid performance as our quiet-yet-devstating hero and even though the plot doesn’t resonate as well as the first, we still get the somewhat amusing sight of the Oscar winner dismantling goons while barely breaking a sweat. Admittedly, the shock value of watching the man who once portrayed Malcolm X kill a dude with a drill or pop an eye out with a shot glass has dissipated a little, but there’s still some juicy thrashings to relish. Watching McCall snap the various bones of a group of wealthy, gang-raping bros is beyond satisfying and the climax, set inexplicably in a hurricane ravaged coastal town, carries a visual punch that’s consistent with Fuqua’s eyecatching style. However, the film’s big bad, a pre-surrogate sci/fi father Pedro Pascal, simply isn’t that interesting and he character serves to highlight another missed opportunity with the script. Not only does Pascal’s corrupt government agent have a long history with Washington’s presumed dead McCall, but so does his entire team – yet no extra drama is mined from the fact that these are no mere goons, but men who once fought with our hero. Similarly, the film neglects to take advantage of the fact that Pascal’s baddie is also a loving family man as well as a cold blooded killer and Fuqua misses a trick not having McCall spend more time with his nemesis’ wife and kids, thus heightening the personal drama further. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of personal, what the Hell does Antoine Fuqua has against Melissa Leo as the actress takes yet another uncomfortably prolonged beating much like the one she endured in the director’s Olympus Has Fallen.


Decent, but not great, serviceable but not rousing, The Equalizer 2 delivers more of the same with slightly less impact, this sequel is slightly less than equal.


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