In a year full of underwhelming film sequels, sure, why not one for ‘The Equalizer?!’
I personally have not watched a single episode of the television show The Equalizer, aside from its brief appearance in Rob Reiner’s hysterical scene in The Wolf of Wall Street. Months after the release of Wolf, The Equalizer, loosely based on the series, boomed into theaters. In that film, Denzel Washington played a retired CIA Black Ops operative, Robert McCall, who tried to bury his secretive past and start a new life. When a young woman he befriended gets brutally beaten by gangsters, he returns to his old ways to both protect her and make sure that the attackers get the payback they deserve. This film did not break any new ground in the action genre, and was more or less a case of style-over-substance, but it was entertaining, mainly thanks to Washington’s committed performance.
Now Washington returns in this sequel, The Equalizer 2. McCall, at this point, has fully accepted his identity as “The Equalizer” and carries out top-secret vigilante jobs by request. He also operates as a Lyft driver to make an honest living. He has taken up residence in an apartment in Boston, and had struck a friendship with another tenant, Miles, a struggling artist caught in the gang world. McCall is approached by a former co-operative and close friend of his, Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo), who informs him that one of their own was murdered in Belgium. Susan goes to investigate, only to be murdered, herself, shortly after arriving. Devastated by this loss, McCall takes it upon himself to find out who it was that murdered Susan, and uses his special set of skills to deliver some well-deserved justice. Wow, this is starting to sound an awful lot like Taken!
I am just going to come out and say this: this film is one of the biggest disappointments I have seen so far this year, and this is the year that gave us A Wrinkle in Time and The 15:17 to Paris. The Equalizer 2 admittedly started off decently with some mildly amusing scenes, including one with a disguised Denzel Washington taking down a child abductor on a train, and one of him slashing a wealthy rapist using the man’s platinum credit card. The film’s story, however, suddenly shifts gears around the halfway point and the pacing falls completely flat.
Some scenes feel as if they are leading somewhere important, but take a rather unnatural turn and are left unresolved. For example, there is a scene midway through the film where McCall rescues Miles from gang members in an apartment building. Not long after they exit a room, the gang members weaponize themselves and run after the two of them. McCall and Miles somehow have enough time to stand in the lobby and talk about Miles’ conflict, and once they finish, they just leave the apartment with no one following them. Either this is the slowest moving gang ever, or this film is a case of bad continuity. This poor editing is surprising, because the editor of this film is Conrad Buff IV, who has edited most of James Cameron’s work, including Titanic, for which he won the Academy Award.
Washington is one those actors who can be both intimidating and charismatic within a single scene. Despite the film’s incoherent story, his performance as Robert McCall is entertaining to watch. One moment I especially liked was during the credit card scene, where, after beating up most of the people in the apartment suite, he exits saying “Don’t forget me to rate me five stars!”, and then the last person alive in that room gives him the rating within seconds!
One big fear I had walking into this film was that it will suffer the same fate of the Taken series, where the sequel would be miss the charm of the predecessor almost completely; and unfortunately, that is exactly what happens! There were even some parts that were eerily similar to Taken 2, particularly where McCall is relaying survival instructions to another character over the phone. Sadly, this film is even worse, because Taken 2 at least had a plot that was more or less easy to follow, as well as some interesting exercises in continuity. This film, on the other hand, was just plain boring, and I hope that no one has the audacity to make an Equalizer 3—or 3qualizer, if they are really that desperate!
The Equalizer 2 is a cash grab, and a rather underwhelming one to boot. Despite efforts from a good cast including Denzel Washington, Melissa Leo, and Bill Pullman, the film completely loses interest in the story it’s telling and gets lost. There is little in this film to become invested in, the “surprise villain” is obvious, and the execution of the plot is almost as bad as last year’s atrocious The Snowman. Washington and director Antoine Fuqua have proven before that they are better than this. Can we go back to those days, please?