Big screen reboots of popular TV shows have been known to strike fear into the hearts of audiences and critics alike. In 2014, Antoine Fuqua’s The Equalizer saw Denzel Washington take on the role of Robert McCall, the big hearted vigilante made famous by Edward Woodward in the eighties series of the same name. The film was a commercial and critical hit, full of hard hitting action with Washington proving he can still take names and punch throats as credibly as action stars half his age. Talk of a sequel actually commenced months before the first film’s release, however it’s taken until now for The Equalizer 2 to hit cinemas.
McCall now lives in Massachusetts, working as a Lyft driver. Aside from helping passengers get from one destination to another, he keeps an eye out for the less fortunate, ready to dispense his own brand of justice when the situation arises. It gets personal for McCall when his friend Susan (Melissa Leo) is murdered while investigating a suspiciously shady murder-suicide. A liaison with old teammate, DIA operative Dave York (Pedro Pascal), uncovers more to Susan’s murder. An obligatory conspiracy involving the usual – betrayal and revenge. McCall isn’t happy which means someone’s gonna die!
Fuqua sets a vicious precedent from the opening scene. If watching a near super human vigilante in his sixties dispose of generic bad guys with ease isn’t your thing, well, that’s the time to exit. The Equalizer 2 doesn’t skimp on the violence, it revels in it. It’s unapologetic and unflinching. You can take solace that most of characters in this movie deserve it. Watching an apparent everyday man like McCall stand up to bullies and crack the bones of the oppressors is something most can support. It may be an old school action movie trope, but it’s one that’s endured as, even in these cynical times, the majority still want to see the victims avenged and the good guys triumph.
Washington is on great form, effortlessly cool, he draws you in with trademark charisma that’s impossible to ignore. McCall isn’t only about punishing the guilty, he’s about helping the underprivileged better themselves such as keeping his neighbour Miles (Ashton Sanders) out of the gang life and in school. This is one of the many subplots that bog down the script. With Miles, there’s an eventual payoff yet the numerous strands hurt the pacing and contribute to a bloated runtime. Sanders turns in a fine performance that helps us invest in his character and as such, we care for his wellbeing even if his arc could have been trimmed a little.
It takes a long time to build to the film’s third act which feels rushed by comparison to the earlier events. The action packed finale is wonderfully shot by cinematographer Oliver Wood as weather induced mayhem obscures the environment and amplifies the threat level. The stakes are high thanks to the conditions even if McCall never feels in any danger himself. We’ve established by this point he really is that good but it sure is fun watching the villains meet some inventive and grisly ends.
Unlike John Wick and American Assassin, Fuqua keeps his tongue firmly from his cheek for much of movie. There are comedic moments thanks to Washington’s delivery but for the most part, the seriousness of the convoluted plot weighs heavy. Not that the specifics of the story matter much, this is straight up revenge flick with a simple formula. A solid action film with a credible star, The Equalizer 2 promises to entertain and while it may not win over critics of the first, it’s sure to appeal to fans who are back for round 2.