The following sentence may be one considered blasphemous to some…
I don’t particularly like Denzel Washington.
There, I said it! Come at me if you feel the need, but I personally don’t feel like his hype as a performer is justified off the projects he has chosen to litter his filmography with, especially as of late. Roles he secured throughout the late 80’s/early 90’s are undoubtedly where he strived (Glory, Malcolm X, Philadelphia, to name a few) and I’m not suggesting that he isn’t a good actor, but for the last near-20 years he’s been coaxing through in relatively generic fare that appears beneath a man of his supposed stature; one of his mid-2000’s projects have him sharing a screen credit with Dean Cain of all people.
Regardless of my personal opinion, Washington is one of those power players that can secure interest off his name alone, and it appears that’ll probably be enough for people to see The Equalizer 2, because this isn’t a particularly good movie. Throwing about his usual self-entitlement that tends to either come off as cocksure or unpleasant, Washington returns in the role of Robert McCall, a former CIA agent who uses his skillset to right some unforgivable wrongs.
The original 2014 outing was a violent throwaway romp that ultimately descended into ridiculousness as Washington roamed the aisle ways of an after-hours homewares store, seemingly taking on an unable-to-kill mentality (ala Jason from the Friday the 13th films) as he dispensed countless goons in his bid to rescue teen prostitute Chloe Grace Moretz from the Russian mafia.
A similar temperament has been adopted for this auto-pilot sequel (why it wasn’t called The Sequalizer I’ll never know) where Washington, now moonlighting as a Lyft driver (it’s like Uber for those uninitiated), picks off former colleagues one-by-one with violent precision amongst a powerful storm in a secluded town that’s been evacuated due to the brutal weather. It’s all so very convenient for the setting to be void of innocent bystanders, and the scene itself is far too over-the-top to be taken seriously, and there’d be nothing wrong with that had what preceded it felt in similar tone.
Much of The Equalizer 2 is something of a slow burn as the Richard Wenk (The Expendables 2, The Magnificent Seven) script drops pieces of separate story strands that don’t appear in any sort of hurry to be resolved. This isn’t necessarily a negative thing, but when time is devoted to McCall’s meetings with an elderly Holocaust survivor (Orson Bean) and the reasoning for doing-so adds literally nothing to the film’s outcome, you can’t help but cry “unnecessary exposition”.
A story strand that does feel a little more organic to the proceedings is that of McCall’s semi-fatherly guidance to young Miles (Ashton Sanders), an African-American teen who has desires of becoming a painter but has been steered into the wrong crowd. The moments between the two showcase a softer side to McCall that we welcome, and though we’re unsurprised when Miles is kidnapped and thrown into turmoil by one of McCall’s many enemies, at least we care if he makes it out alive.
A sequel only in name and not by nature, The Equalizer 2 doesn’t differentiate itself from any number of the countless male-driven action projects doing the rounds these days. Occasionally Antoine Fuqua’s film appears as if it cares about entertaining its audience beyond violent set-pieces (Melissa Leo’s involvement as McCall’s former CIA handler features in the most affecting scenes) but for the most part The Equalizer 2 seems content to survive on mediocrity.
About The Equalizer 2
If you have a problem and there is nowhere else to turn, the mysterious and elusive Robert McCall will deliver the vigilante justice you seek. This time, however, McCall’s past cuts especially close to home when thugs kill Susan Plummer — his best friend and former colleague. Now out for revenge, McCall must take on a crew of highly trained assassins who’ll stop at nothing to destroy him.
The Equalizer 2 (MA15+) is now showing in Australian theatres