REVIEW — “The Equalizer 2”
Denzel Washington has a long and impressive resume. He’s one of the very few remaining leading men in Hollywood – a man with a sense of star power that makes even the most casual of movie goers confident that the quality of a film will be up to standard simply because he’s in it. From Malcolm X to DejaVu, he not only makes smart choices from an artistic standpoint – but he makes sure that each film he stars in can resonate with a large audience. I almost can’t fault the guy for choosing The Equalizer 2 to be his first sequel. The Equalizer is a perfectly fine popcorn film that did a great job at utilizing Denzel in the titular role – and all things considered, it’s the perfect kind of franchise for someone like Denzel to lead. It doesn’t necessarily need twenty sequels, but you can always pick up where you left off. At the same time however, I feel like one of the greatest actors of all time deserves something better than what The Equalizer 2 has to offer.
For the longest time, it genuinely seems like The Equalizer 2 is simply going to be a character study on Robert McCall. We pick up with him as a Lyft driver who gets people to where they need to go, but also corrects problems that need to be corrected. We see him kick some major ass – but the film isn’t afraid to slow down and let him have conversations with neighbors. There is nearly a forty minute window here where there is zero plot progression and just has Robert living life… and I almost prefer that to the film we got. Once the film remembers that it’s supposed to be an action/thriller with political intrigue mixed in – it feels totally separated from everything that came before and becomes significantly less interesting.
A lot of the best moments in the film are simply the scenes where Robert McCall is having conversations with Miles (Ashton Sanders), a kid who lives in his apartment building, and trying to steer him down a more positive road. Antoine Fuqua genuinely knows the level of acting abilities that Denzel has to offer. One sequence where Robert confronts Miles as he’s caught hanging around a bad group of people is an exceptional piece of work that belongs in a much better film. Both Fuqua and Washington have reinvented the character of Robert McCall and made him very interesting – he’s just unfortunately a lot more interesting than the stories that he is wrapped up inside of.
As I previously stated, the political and thriller angle is easily the worst aspect of this film. It’s predictable from the moment is set up and is unfortunately dragged out until the final frame. Pedro Pascal delivers a solid performance as always, but his character is so laughably generic that you almost feel bad seeing a man of his caliber turning in such a good performance for such bad material. The action here isn’t always bad, as there’s one particularly fight sequence in Robert’s car halfway through the film – but the third act really was the final nail in the coffin for me. Not only do they try to drag out the story and make it more convoluted than it needs to be, but the action sequences feel like a legitimate video game at the end. By the time it was all over, I was soured by the experience even though there was some good stuff in there. If they decide to make an Equalizer 3, I hope they decide to keep the complexities of the character and his demons but try to keep the simplicities of the action and political intrigue. 2.5/5.