Denzel Washington is one of the most successful and popular actors of this or any generation. He has a countless number of memorable films and characters. Interestingly enough, he has never reprised his role as any of those characters. This is something that I found rather shocking. I recently heard this and did what you are probably doing right now; scrolling through all of the Denzel movies I love, looking for the sequel that had to be there. Surprisingly enough, there is no sequel there. Making it this long in a sequel driven Hollywood is pretty impressive. It also makes it a bit strange that he decided to break this trend with The Equalizer 2. The first film did fine both at the box office and with critics. It was far from a bad movie and grossed over 100 million at the box office domestically (per Box Office Mojo). But what’s strange about it is that this wasn’t a movie that called for a sequel. It didn’t make a big impact culturally, critics didn’t universally adore it and the movie itself didn’t leave it open for a sequel. Nonetheless The Equalizer 2 was released on July 20th, to a similar response as its predecessor.
There are a few broad similarities with The Equalizer 2 and the first film. They both feel very similar in tone and scale. They both look similar and carry some of the same themes. The sequel is also good in the same way the first is, Denzel Washington. Washington reprised his role as Robert McCall, an ex military vigilante that provides justice to the oppressed and overlooked. That was the main theme of the first and continues as a through line in this one. The added twist in this film is that the person he is avenging is someone he loves. Denzel is great as an action star and he is great again here. Even though he is 63 years old, he still is believable as an action star. There are also a few emotional moments in this movie, which work, almost entirely, because Denzel is carrying them. He covers up a few poor elements and makes, what would normally be an unwatchable movie very watchable.
One of those poor elements is the screenplay. Richard Wenk returned to write this film and similar to the first film, struggles to find a direction. There are good story elements all throughout The Equalizer 2, but none of those elements come together to create a compelling story. Denzel as this rogue vigilante who goes around providing justice for often overlooked crimes is interesting but we don’t get enough of that. Denzel as a mentor for a young kid in his neighborhood, helping him out of his situation and on to better things is also interesting but we don’t get much of that either. This plotline in particular could have made this film far more compelling, if drawn out more. Instead we only get a glimpse of it and then it is used solely to provide stakes, which don’t work because it wasn’t given enough time to develop. Ashton Sanders plays Miles Whittaker, the young man Robert McCall takes under his wing, and he gives a compelling performance in spite of how little he gets to do. He showed in 2016’s Best Picture winner, Moonlight, that he has the chops to handle much more, so it was a bit disappointing to not see more of him here. Overall the elements of the story are enough to sustain some interest but not enough to create a memorable experience.
The action set pieces throughout the film were also a bit disappointing because they were so hit or miss. The opening sequence in the hotel room was cool and good at establishing what Robert McCall has been doing since the first film, however there was nothing over spectacular about it. Getting Miles out of the dope house worked much better but the most memorable part of the scene was he and Miles talking after the action had died down. The worst of the action scenes was the most important one. The final action scene in Robert’s hometown didn’t work hardly at all. It was paced poorly and was overlong. The idea of it taking place during a storm may have been a good one on paper but it was awful on screen. It was hard to see what was taking place and where characters were in relation to each other. It was a poor finale to an underwhelming film, which in turn made the whole thing underwhelming.
The Equalizer 2 isn’t a bad film but it isn’t a good one either. This is another similarity it has with the first movie. Both films fall in the undesirable space of not being either good enough or bad enough to be memorable. A lot of that feeling comes from the fact that there isn’t anything all that original going on. It’s a paint by numbers action movie, which can be enjoyable but it’s lack of anything spectacular doesn’t set it apart. There are better versions of this film. However if you like Denzel and you like him as an action star then this film will work for you.
3 out of 5 stars
Director: Antoine Fuqua Writer: Richard Wenk Starring: Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Melissa Leo & Bill Pullman Release Date: July 20th Rated: R Runtime: 2 hours and 1 minute Image Credit: Equalizer