8 out of 10
Denzel Washington – Robert McCall
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
As a whole, The Equalizer 2 is better than the original, and the first film was already a fine adaptation of the CBS television series. Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington, at this point, work so well together and have such a shared vision for the character that you want to spend as much time as possible with Robert McCall. For those used to wall-to-wall action, this is not that kind of movie. Fuqua and Washington let scenes play out, silences build into important moments, and characters interact with each other in ways that may be too deliberate for people expecting explosions and mayhem. When the action happens, it’s cathartic, and makes the violence mean more than in a film that never stops to allow audiences to take a breath.
I guarantee you you’ll probably be ahead of The Equalizer 2 in about 15 minutes, but it’s the way that it gets there that makes it interesting and fun. Movies like this are basically clocks. Now, clocks all do the same thing, but none of them are the same. but The Equalizer 2 is a marvel of construction, especially when we see the gears fit together and watch Fuqua and writer Richard Wenk (who also wrote the 2014 original) lay down the groundwork throughout the movie. There is a lot of pay-off at the end that is very satisfying to see play out. And while, frankly, this film’s climax isn’t as exciting as watching Denzel use a Home Depot knock-off to dispatch a ton of bad guys, there’s an emotional climax to The Equalizer 2 that feels very earned and rewarding.
Denzel’s Robert McCall is probably my favorite action character that he’s played. He’s magnetic, and you never want to take your eyes off him McCall is a man who has a strong sense of justice and righteousness, but he’s also a man that is incredibly lonely and seems to want to be around people just to share in their moments, even if it’s a brief conversation in McCall’s Lyft. Each ride has a story, and McCall listens to every one of them. Sometimes, he does more than listen, and that’s when McCall’s skills come into play. He still keeps in touch with his friend and former boss Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo), and while the world thinks that McCall is dead, Susan knows that McCall still wants to be useful in his way. When an information source for the agency McCall worked for is murdered in Brussels, Susan and her assistant Dave (Pedro Pascal) investigate. But McCall can never truly escape his past, and it comes at him with a vengeance, putting his life and the lives of others at risk, including the like a of a young street artist named Miles (Ashton Sanders) that McCall wants to help. Many will see some plot twists coming pretty easily, but when you’re watching movies like this, those twists are beside the point. We’re here to watch Denzel Washington do what he does – kick ass and act like he’s the baddest dude in the room. I know that Liam Neeson has retired from making these kinds of films, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Neeson and Washington making a movie together like this.
Is The Equalizer 2 predictable? Sure, but in that good way that allows you to anticipate the cool moments. What makes The Equalizer 2 as engaging as it is, is that we care for these characters in a way that most action movies tend to ignore. We spend time with them, see these bonds form and see McCall yearn and grow to put the past aside and become whole again. The relationships that McCall forms with others are moving and emotional. He wants to be kind, wants to help everyone, but he also cannot ignore his nature, and when that nature rears its ugly head, McCall makes for his stopwatch. Fuqua and Washington build action scenes that are satisfying and suitably impressive, but I also enjoyed the quieter moments. Washington and Orson Bean have a nice little story arc that pays off beautifully, and the work Washinton and Ashton Sanders do together is touching and inspiring.
There’s something so charismatic about Denzel Washington anyway. The man can make most anything compelling. I could watch him paint a house for two hours and find something interesting. What I really love about his Robert MCCall is that he plays him as a man eager, excited to be a part of the world, to meet people and become a part of their lives, but there’s a struggle within him that keeps him just at arm’s length. Most action movies like this barely concentrate on their heroes’ inner lives, but The Equalizer 2 does. For some, this may make the film not as exciting, and a lot of The Equalizer 2 operates on a slow burn. But that makes the action that much more meaningful as a result. Fans of Denzel Washington shouldn’t miss this.