Talk about a movie sequel that came completely out of nowhere. I’m not sure anyone expected or even craved a sequel to Denzel Washington’s 2014 vigilante thriller “The Equalizer”. Not that it was a bad movie, it’s just not something Denzel does. Washington has never made a sequel of any kind in his near forty years of moviemaking. That’s what makes “The Equalizer 2” so surprising.
This is Denzel’s fourth collaboration with director Antione Fuqua and (obviously) their second film based on the 1980’s CBS television series. Washington picks up with his character, former government agent Robert McCall, living in a tucked away apartment complex just outside of Boston. He’s still low-key, gentlemanly, and completely the off-the-grid to everyone except his closest friend and former colleague Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo).
Plenty of focus is put on McCall’s day-to-day routines. Whether he’s riding around the city as a Lyft driver listening to stories from a wide variety of passengers or mentoring a troubled young neighbor (Ashton Sanders). You can sense the movie stretching itself to emphasis McCall’s humanity yet these scenes work thanks to Washington being so blasted good. I could watch him do garbage bag commercials for two hours and still be invested.
Oh, there’s also that whole vigilante thing. Like when he helps reunite a local book shop owner with her daughter. Or when he gives a group of preppy sexual predators their comeuppance. Not only do these sequences remind us that this is still very much an action movie, but they also seem in tune with who we believe this guy to be. Sure, it’s a little far-fetched, but it’s still a fun side to this character.
But then the movie takes a pretty dramatic shift after an assignment goes terribly bad for Susan. Word gets back to McCall and he sets out to uncover what happened to his friend and to enact his own special brand of justice. Fuqua tries to make the transition as seamless as possible but inevitably we do lose some of the intimacy. It’s quite fun watching McCall go into super sleuth mode digging into a digital paper trail and reconnecting with a former partner with the DIA (Pedro Pascal).
This leads to a big and almost unavoidable final act that feels pulled from an entirely different movie. Denzel, an empty island town, a crooked military strike team, and an approaching hurricane. I love big action but this genuinely feels at odds with the rest of the film. Thankfully it isn’t enough to undo all that came before it which is surprisingly satisfying. And ultimately Washington is such a joy to watch. The 64-year-old hasn’t lost a bit of his allure and his ability to carry a film is unmatched.
VERDICT – 3.5 STARS