There’s a first time for everything…
Hard to believe that this is the very first time in the illustrious career of Denzel Washington that he’s been in a sequel to one of his previous films, but with The Equalizer 2 we get exactly that. However like most sequels, we get a lot of the same entertaining beats but without the immediacy and raw entertainment value of the original film. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just a ‘been there, done that’ kind of scenario.
Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) does his best to live a simple life while doling out his unique brand of unflinching justice being a source of good for the violated and the oppressed…but how will all that change when the world that he’s fighting against takes someone he loves and drops the world out from underneath his firm moral code in the name of avenging one of the only friends he’s ever had.
With both Denzel and director Antoine Fuqua returning to this follow up, the energy and the beats are the same but you just can’t help the fact that no matter how hard Denzel tries we as an audience just don’t have a huge compulsion to revisit this character even though we do enjoy vicariously kicking ass and helping those who need his assistance.
Having now teamed together four times (Training Day, The Equalizer, The Magnificent Seven & EQ2) Fuqua and Washington have a kind of second hand in working together that really does translate into a certain amount of ease on the screen. They work well together and it comes through not only in Fuqua’s steady and occasionally stunning direction but through Washington’s stalwart performance’s. If Paul Newman or Steve McQueen were still with us there is no doubt that their favourite guy to watch would be Denzel himself, because the action sequences are crisp and believable. He’s hardly a superhero/or daredevil secret agent, but you believe that you don’t want to f*** with him the second you look into his eyes.
The script from writer Richard Wenk who also returns to the fray is solid but plays a little more episodic, tracking the further adventures of Washington’s character rather than trying to craft a legitimate continuation of the first story. While we do smartly get a little more back story into what led Robert McCall into this life of solitude and mystery helping the downtrodden, it never really clicked in on an emotional level like they probably thought (or hoped) that it might.
As usual, Denzel has a genuine bead on the character and plays it with the ease that you’d expect and while that doesn’t always work in the films favor, he’s got the on screen magnetism to pull it off, even when he’s being a little too quiet. The overall ensemble including Melissa Leo, Bill Pullman, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders (who you might recognize from the Academy Award winning Moonlight) and a rare appearance from the brilliantly underrated and hard working Orson Bean all do good enough work but it’s not enough. The problem is that outside of Denzel the bulk of the characters in this film are just incredibly underwritten and not all that compelling no matter what happens to them.
When all is said and done, The Equalizer 2 is a solid thriller and good enough of a diversion at the theatre, but it’s not necessarily one you need to run as see as soon as you can either.