I’ll begin with a confession: I’ve never watched the original Equalizer, but I am a big Denzel Washington fan. There’s nothing quite like watching Denzel’s serious, brooding face calculating his next move in a life and death situation (looking at you, John Q). So, when I was standing in line to watch Equalizer 2, I’ll admit I was a little more than excited. Denzel Washington movies are few and far between these days and getting the opportunity to watch him reprise his role as Robert McCall sounded like a treat.
Equalizer 2 follows the premise of the original film in that it focuses on just that – it is a film about vengeance and getting even. Based off of an 80’s CBS primetime crime drama with the same name, Equalizer 2 follows Robert McCall, a sixty-something widower with a deadly set of skills, as he looks to avenge the death of his lifelong friend, Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo). As far as superheroes go, it’s understandable why audiences are so captivated with McCall-like characters (and why the Batman series is so popular) – everyone likes watching someone do the right thing.
The film starts off showing the aftermath of the last Equalizer film: McCall has seemingly settled into a quiet life in a new neighborhood in Boston, where he is a Lyft driver by day and justice seeker on nights and weekends. But, when Plummer is killed while investigating a seemingly sketchy death in Brussels, McCall decides to take matters into his hands and seek justice.
Taking Equalizer 2 at face value, it really is a mesmerizing movie. Although it certainly is an action film, it plays out slowly, burning silently. The action takes time to build, allowing the audience to watch McCall for a while before he starts off on his rampage of death. Eventually, though, that is what the film becomes: an almost unbelievable bloodbath of all those that were seemingly involved in Plummer’s death. Still, the film doesn’t cross over to the gory or gruesome, instead displaying bursts of violence that push the story along in a meaningful way. And yes, it’s certainly fun to watch as well, and Denzel’s low-key vigilante in the night is a superhero I can vouch for.
Other memorable performances include Pedro Pascal as Dave York, McCall’s old CIA partner who was also present during Plummer’s eventual demise, and Ashton Sander as Miles, McCall’s teenage neighbor with artistic aspirations. Both inevitably become intertwined in the mission, leading to some seriously tense sequences as they find themselves in jeopardizing positions.
Still, the film possesses some major missteps that are hard to ignore. For one, every female character in the movie exists to push the plot forward at the expense of any sort of character development. In today’s current climate, not only does this technique feel outdated, but it almost takes away from the film’s legitimacy as a movie about justice and honor.
Also, there are several unexplainable subplots that are never fully fleshed out, leaving audiences to wonder why they would bring it up in the first place (What’s up with the storyline about the Holocaust survivor and why was that even in this movie?). It begs the question as to whether director Antoine Fuqua was searching to insert more meaningful commentary about the world today in this film, but somehow missed the mark.
Still, Equalizer 2 is definitely worth watching, if just to have the opportunity to watch Denzel Washington do what he does best. Denzel shines in roles where he can show off his laid-back personality and transform into a hero who won’t stop until his mission is done. It’s truly captivating to watch his quiet confidence oozing through while his face gives way to something darker, almost pained underneath. Robert McCall is just that. And to that I say: when does the next one come out?