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The Equalizer 2 Review

July 20, 2018 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
The Equalizer 2
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The Equalizer 2 Review  

Directed By: Antoine Fuqua
Written By: Richard Wenk
Runtime: 129 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Denzel Washington – Robert McCall
Pedro Pascal – Dave York
Melissa Leo – Sarah Plummer
Bill Pullman – Brian Plummer
Jonathan Scarfe – Resnick
Ashton Sanders – Miles
Orson Bean – Sam Rubinstein
Sakina Jeffrey – Fatima

Denzel Washington returns to the role of Robert McCall in The Equalizer 2. Based on the television show, Robert McCall is an ex-spook with a very particular set of skills. While he dispatches his foes with brutal, violent accuracy, McCall still has a very strong moral compass, and he will not let a bad deed go unchecked; especially those enacted against what few close friends he has in the world.

After returning a kidnapped child in a trip to Turkey, McCall returns to his rather mundane life in Boston, Massachusetts. When he’s not getting his aggression out on some rich, upper-crust white-collar suits, he spends most of his time working as a Lyft driver, offering some sagely advice and encouragement to clients he thinks deserves it.

McCall appears content with his sparse, solitary existence, though his friend and former colleague Sarah Plummer (Leo) tries to persuade McCall to return to his old home that he shared with his late wife. For Robert, the wounds of his wife’s passing are still fresh, and Vivian’s loss still weighs heavily upon him.

McCall is spurned back into action after an investigation into the death of a deep-cover agency asset is started by Sarah. The assailants responsible sought to make the death look like a murder-suicide. However, Sarah getting too close makes her a loose ends the bad guys need to tie up. Now, with nothing left to lose, Robert McCall seeks to find those responsible and put an end to them.

The Equalizer as a film series is very interesting. The similarities are few at this point, much like the Mission: Impossible franchise and its original TV equivalent. The film series has been completely modeled and built around Denzel Washington. The character and premise have been re-appropriated to his particular style and performance. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, but the cinematic version of McCall shares little in common with the Edward Woodward version.

The payoff is that since the concept of The Equalizer has essentially been rebooted to work Washington’s performance, rather than the other way around, is that The Equalizer 2 works fairly well as a “Denzel Washington wastes bad guys” high-concept thriller. This isn’t The Equalizer of yore. It’s the Denzel Washington version, and that’s what The Equalizer films want to be: a star vehicle for Washington.

Director Antoine Fuqua does a good job of shooting Washington as he has since Training Day. He directs in the style of slick political thriller. There’s a stark beauty to the cinematography. The film is not shot to make things look particularly grimy or seedy, even when dealing with the more street-level crime.

At times, Washington’s McCall appears to be superhuman with his pinpoint accuracy for destruction. In one of the film’s trademark sequences, McCall essentially acts like a supernatural monster in a horror film, slowly killing off its helpless prey one-by-one. McCall is serious when he says, “You’re going to war with me,” and the movie makes sure the audience knows that war with McCall is the last thing anyone would want. This turns The Equalizer 2 into a bit of a power fantasy trip, but there’s nothing wrong with that. When did it become wrong to not have fun with a power fantasy?

An unfortunate drawback for The Equalizer 2 as a power fantasy is that it has trouble finding suspense, since Robert McCall is so overly competent. As a result, the film tries to build tension and suspense through the endangerment of other bystanders connected to McCall, since he is physically unparalleled and appears to have no equal on the battlefield.

The other main issue is that the plot takes too long to get going. After McCall’s return to Boston, the narrative takes quite a while to establish the central conflict. By the time that happens, the audience has probably already figured out who the central antagonist will be. The big reveal is fairly obvious very early on.

In defense of The Equalizer 2, its patience in development the plot and characters is admirable. Writer Richard Wenk isn’t just bulldozing and rushing through events haphazardly. However, there’s an undeniable drag in the front end. That makes the pacing throughout the film overly deliberate.

Denzel Washington oozes quiet, unassuming charisma as McCall. The role is rather derivative of other characters he’s played before, such as John Creasy in Man on Fire, except he’s deadlier and more ruthless on the field and a bit nicer and more compassionate around others. Making McCall a Lyft driver comes off as a rather lazy device that will probably date the movie rather quickly. Not to mention, the subplot just seems to shamelessly promote Lyft’s services, besides the apt timing of the five-star rating jokes.

Overall, a strong performance from Washington and slick direction by Fuqua elevate a flawed script for The Equalizer 2. Washington is easily the most exceptional aspect of The Equalizer film series, and Fuqua knows how to showcase his strengths.

The final score: review Good
The 411
The Equalizer 2 is a solid, watchable