The Equalizer 2 review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Denzel Washington has overwhelming power to his presence that a film such as The Equalizer is perfectly suited to let that inner action star out and tear up the screen. The Equalizer 2, however, acts as little more than another refresher. It’s not as though watching Washington as an unstoppable killing machine in his Kung Fu style mission to judge the wicked from the weak isn’t fun. It’s just a shame that fun has to be in a run-of-the-mill script fished out of the Jason Bourne barrel of stories.
Washington returns to the role Robert McCall, a man who now only takes on dangerous missions of combating terrorists and kidnappers when a local citizen needs his help. When a local bookstore owner has her daughter taken away by a dangerous man, McCall is on the case, putting on a disguise and trotting around the globe to ensure one girl is safe. That’s just the kind of man he is. He’s also the kind of a man who can slaughter an entire train car of bad guys with little more than a beer bottle. Should we expect anything less?
He has recently taken an interest in a local youth of his apartment complex that could use some guidance. The teenager has some artistic talent but he could let it all go to waste if he falls in with the wrong crowd. While McCall makes a point to help this kid out, he has his plate full as well. There’s an elderly man who has survived the Holocaust who he gladly drives every day during his taxi gig, hoping he could someday be reunited with his wife. McCall will make that happen. But, wait, there’s also a bigger plot going on with his old pal (Melissa Leo) who has been targeted and killed to cover up some conspiracy.
While the writing is just a mess of arcs that resolve themselves quickly and sloppily, director Antoine Fuqua still has that special touch for crafting great action. I love the overblown special effects of trying to weave Washington as a super-powered Sherlock Holmes, able to quickly calculate all his moves in taking down anyone, anywhere. One highlight features him using a credit card to beat the snot out of a room of young punks inside a hotel room who beat up a woman. Another highlight, despite being obligatory to any thriller about spies, is the grand showdown which has a certain cleverness for taking place in an abandoned town during a heavy storm, gunfire, and fistfights galore.
Ultimately, the film holds up best from the sheer commitment of Washington to be both a charmer and a violent anti-hero. One of his creepiest moments features him confronting a government agent he believes to be involved in secret murders. He decides to meet the man at his house, in front of his wife and kids amid breakfast. Sure, I’ve seen a number of thrillers that have this same setup but there’s just something about Washington’s performance that makes the expected and silly nature a bit more entertaining.
The Equalizer 2 comes with all the leaps in logic needed to turn Denzel into a superhero, from his perfect shots to his mastery of determining everything from the weather to chemicals. It’s absurd and loses a bit of the minor mystique and grit from the first film, especially with a very flimsy rant he delivers to one misguided youth that comes off as a clunky afterschool special. But for it sets out to be, as unoriginal and uninspired as it may be, Fuqua’s direction saves the picture from becoming a dreary retread and more of a pleasant stroll through familiar territory of a Denzel Washington bloodbath.