Sequel to the 2014 film based on the 80s television series of the same name featuring retired secret agent Robert McCall utilizing his espionage resources to help the innocent and downtrodden, Denzel Washington returns as McCall under the returning direction of Anton Fuqua, to do what the duo does onscreen best; take stories that are bland on paper and spice them up with strong action, clever direction, and that Denzel Washington charm.
None of this is to say at all that as a whole, “The Equalizer 2” is a bad movie, but merely to illustrate the point that the film is more or less exactly what it advertises. It’s a quaint, fun matinee thrill ride reliant on the quality of its choreography as an action flick and the performances of its lead and a host of excellent character actors and in an age where overproduced, CGI-laden blockbusters are par for the course week by week, it probably feels more welcome now than ever before. For what it’s worth, I also found myself liking it substantially more than the first film.
This one sees McCall thrust back into action while living his humble life of uplifting after the suspicious death of one of his closest friends and only remaining personal link to his former lifestyle, and gradually uncovers a web of deceit within the agency that formerly employed him — putting him up against younger and more ruthless agents with the same training that he underwent, willing to take the fight to his doorstep to take him out. As a result, the concept of McCall as a good Samaritan with resources from his old life used to help ordinary folk becomes more thoroughly tested and results in more tangible consequences as opposed to the first movie’s choppy screenplay of passing Washington’s charm off from scenario to scenario in set pieces that connected very broadly into a plot.
It ultimately makes for a far tighter, leaner, and occasionally thought provoking ride that’s more willing to put genuine humanity on display to solid effect, with Fuqua and Washington’s talents elevating thin material into something far more satisfying. What they’re talents can’t quite manage however is just how predictable, formulaic, and disposable this actual script is. “The Equalizer 2” doesn’t exactly set out to reinvent the wheel, but the extent to which it seems to fail to realize how predictable every beat of its story plays out just creates a far messier affair than necessary.
The sequences of McCall’s good Samaritan jobs are marginalized and less intrusive to the narrative which do play into him feeling like something of a genuine superhero to amusing effect but when their resolutions rear their head, they almost seem to come from out of nowhere, save for a more integral thread of him inspiring a young troubled artist that misses the ability to humanize him more than it ultimately tried to.
Furthermore, despite Washington’s best efforts, the lack of substantial threat or harm that comes to his character reeks of a convenience that betrays the grounded tone that the movie is going for and the revelation is so painfully telegraphed that just about every time Pedro Pascal appeared on screen, I found myself actively praying the true twist of the movie would be not revealing his character’s true nature, as if the trailers don’t make it obvious enough.
All of these things may sound like major sour notes, but “The Equalizer 2” is flashy and charismatic enough to provide a pleasant two hour ride if you’re after a fun theatergoing experience that isn’t quite as bombastic as the typical slate of summer flicks tends to be. Simple but sweet.
3 out of 5
Graduating from Texas A&M University—Commerce with a bachelor's degree in News and Editorial Journalism, Jordan Wright has lived most of his adult life professionally critiquing films, from major blockbusters to indie dramas, and has no intentions of stopping.