THE EQUALIZER 2 – Review
THE EQUALIZER 2 is a case where ‘more of the same’ would have been just fine but somehow they screwed this up. The powerful director/actor team of Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington gave us THE EQUALIZER in 2014, a pulpy urban revenge thriller that had all the trappings of a tired Hollywood genre effort: a loner with a mysterious past, a young hooker with a heart of gold that provided the catalyst for his return to action, and an army of sneering Russian gangsters for him to dispatch in all variety of gruesome manner. But it worked surprisingly well, with a weird, electrifying life of its own thanks to Washington’s brooding presence and Fuqua’s dazzling direction. It also helped that they kept the scope small, focusing on its hero’s simple existence in Boston. The paint-by-numbers sequel, which opens things up with some globe-hopping tangents in Istanbul and Belgium, is far inferior with less violence and no emotional affect.
Washington is back in THE EQUALIZER 2 as retired CIA operative Robert McCall who, when not rescuing kidnapped children in Turkey, makes a living driving for Lyft (no mention is made of why he lost his job at Home Depot – probably something to do with the mangled corpses he left there). When his former CIA boss Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) is murdered in Brussels, McCall unleashes his particularly lethal set of skills on those responsible. I barely remember Ms Leo from part one, so her demise meant little to me, but the film’s central plot revolves around her murder and with so many red herrings and double-crosses, it’s hard to keep allegiances straight. The highlight of part one was a remarkable skull-smashing, corkscrew-through-the-jaw sequence in which McCall dispensed with five Russkies while checking the seconds on his watch. Part two attempts to recreate this in a scene where McCall similarly dispatches a hotel room full of finance-industry white boys after they sexually assaulted a young woman and dumped her in his Lyft. That stopwatch is back as is the way McCall visually assesses his surroundings, but the scene has far less impact, in part because all these bros are still alive at the end of it. But it’s still the best scene in the sequel, which goes downhill from there. See, though still bad-ass, this is the (relatively) kinder, gentler Robert McCall, a killing machine who spends a great deal of time passing out books and caring for his neighbors. These include an Indian woman whose garden is vandalized, a teenager (Ashton Sanders) he’s determined to save from the Thug Life and an old Jewish man (Orson Bean) still grieving for a sister from who he was separated during the Holocaust. Where the original’s crazy showdown finale took place in a big-box hardware store where McCall had access to nail guns, blow torches and barbed-wire nooses, the sequel climaxes with a lackluster, drawn-out gun battle between McCall and a quartet of bland villains in a rainstorm. On the plus side, Washington is as charismatic as ever and throws out a few memorable quips (“don’t forget my 5-star rating” he reminds someone he’s just crippled). Boston locations are again used to strong effect but the action lags and this sequel is one of this summer’s bigger disappointments.
2 1/2 of 5 Stars