The Equalizer 2 (2018)

The Equalizer 2 brings back Denzel Washington (Fences), along with director Antoine Fuqua (The Magnificent Seven) and screenwriter Richard Wenk (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back), continuing the further adventures of one man’s quest to save the good people of the community, city, country, and world from the users and abusers. Washington stars as ex-black ops specialist Robert McCall, who works as a Lyft driver after taking on a new home in Boston, hearing people’s sad stories and observing bad behavior, only to take action on those stories and that behavior by getting the powerless prey out of their particular pickles by using deadly force.  An old friend from his CIA days, Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo, Snowden), becomes one of those victims while on assignment in Brussels, leading McCall to take action yet again on the world stage in Belgium and beyond.

Although it is technically a follow-up to the 2014 film The Equalizer, which itself had been a reboot of a popular TV show on CBS in the mid-to-late 1980s, this one doesn’t really require having seen that film in order to understand what’s going on.  Outside of the main character with a murky past in covert operations with the CIA in order to explain his training as a highly skilled assassin and spy,  there’s not much depth to the character at all, though Washington offers plenty of nuance to dive into from an acting standpoint to make it seem like a much deeper movie than it truly is.  For a man who made his debut his in feature films in 1981 with a comedy called Carbon Copy, he has made another film worthy of that title, as this sequel lifts all of the things audiences enjoyed from the first film, while also continuing on with some of the overhead involved, in what ends up being the very first time in his nearly forty-year career that he’s made a follow-up to one of his films.

All of these kinds of films tap into our fears that the world is unfair, with the powerful continuing to prey upon the meek, often without justice, and we all desire that someone would do something about it.  Wish fulfillment is the name of the game with this property, and McCall represents the vigilante archetype, only with a lot more penchant for exactly bone-crushing and eye-gouging violence to sate our desire to see those who make others suffer get their just desserts.

It contains enough action to qualify in that genre, but The Equalizer 2 does contain a bit more moments of drama this time out, to the point where those seeking lots of punch in their punch-fests may begin to grow impatient.  Between McCall taking on some Turkish thugs committing a kidnapping in the opening sequence, assisting a Holocaust survivor trying to track down the long-lost painting belonging to his sister, and paternally helping a wayward teenager with a talent for art get his life on a better track than running with gangs.  It has its share of slow moments and secondary story threads that will remind you of watching the scenes normally found in the “deleted scenes” section of many Blu-ray releases of your favorite films.

At two hours and one minute, it certainly could have been a tighter and more effective film at twenty minutes less, but that would also excise some moments where Denzel Washington is delivering a fine performance (at least for this kind of movie), so it’s hard to come down definitely in this regard.  It also would have been better served with offering a better sense of suspense for a thriller, as Fuqua tamps down on the set-ups that cause tension in favor of prolonged sequences of smash-mouth retribution.

I’m not averse to brutal action, as long as I feel it is earned, as I truly love Denzel in Man on Fire, a film even more violent than The Equalizer 2 in many regards.  However, there are a few times in this film that I felt like Antoine Fuqua may be going a bit overboard in his arm-snapping and bloodletting bits of retribution, perhaps even reveling in the punishments inflicted on his targets. These scenes also extend far beyond satiety, even for those who revel along with them, especially given how redundant some of these are from not only the first film, but sometimes repeating beats within the very same scenes.  Even for a film in which everyone is expecting a high kill count, it’s the overkill count that threatens to make the film feel exploitative, despite its more noble ambitions thematically.

If you enjoyed the first one enough to watch it a second time, you’re likely the kind of audience that would also appreciate its follow-up, as it delivers the goods you’re expecting and have enjoyed, except with new characters and situations to delve into.  If you’ve already had your fill of seeing Denzel Washington do this sort of thing, or you are averse to heaps of strong violent acts, you may find The Equalizer has been too firmly set to someone else’s frequency.

Qwipster’s rating: C+

MPAA Rated: R for brutal violence throughout, language, and some drug content
Running Time: 121 min.

Cast: Denzel Washington, Melissa Leo, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Bill Pullman, Orson Bean, Jonathan Scarfe, Sakina Jaffrey
Director: Antoine Fuqua

Screenplay: Richard Wenk