Review: The Equalizer 2

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PLOT: After a friend is killed during an investigating, Robert McCall is compelled to look into her untimely demise. The search brings a little of his past to light, while also putting others close to him in danger.

REVIEW: In THE EQUALIZER, Denzel Washington took on the role of Robert McCall, a man with a mysterious past and the uncanny ability to visualize his way out of a deadly situation. It began with him helping a young, abused prostitute, which ultimately led to his offering his services to others in need. The Antoine Fuqua directed revamp of the mid to late 80’s television series was a stylish thriller, one that gave Washington yet another intriguing character to take on. With THE EQUALIZER 2, the impressive pairing of Fuqua and Washington proves once again the two make for a solid cinematic team. Now we are aware of who McCall is, albeit, his past is only partially revealed for the second chapter. And frankly, it is a smart reveal without giving everything away for what could easily continue to be a successful franchise.

After the events in the previous film, Robert McCall has shifted gears. He now hides his real work – protecting people in need – as a Lyft driver. When his good friend Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) is killed while investigating what appears to be a murder-suicide, he discovers a few inconsistencies in the official story. As he begins looking into her death, he suspects that the murder is part of a massive cover up. Meanwhile, McCall attempts to help a young neighbor of his named Miles (Ashton Sanders) who is in need of guidance to help better his life. Unfortunately, the two worlds collide after those involved with Susan’s attack go after McCall and anybody close to him.

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The opening sequence in THE EQUALIZER 2 is an impressive set-up. McCall is on a train attempting to stop what is essentially a kidnapping. Now that we’ve seen his process and his use of a stopwatch and his visual dissection on his surroundings, we are already aware of what is about to go down. This terrific set piece is extremely well shot by Fuqua and his DP Oliver Wood, and it is a strong beginning for this sequel. In fact, the few times the film takes on a small separate story – like one involving a girl assaulted at a party – it reminds us what kind of tricks McCall has to offer. Thankfully, these little extras only build his world without distracting too much from the main storyline.

As far as the mystery is concerned, that may be the only major issue with the film. The why may not be as obvious, but the who is all too easy to figure out. In fact, for those of you who have seen enough of this type of drama, you will most likely figure it out well before you are supposed to. Even still, the villain in question is a good one, and the final showdown that takes place in the middle of an oncoming storm is impressive. While I enjoyed the final act in the previous film, the Home Depot type staging isn’t nearly as intense as what is on display here.  It may be predictable, but it still delivers.

Denzel Washington is once again terrific, and he is ably supported by a strong cast. Melissa Leo continues to prove that she may be one of the best actors working today. So much so that when her character is attacked, it packs more of an emotional gut punch than it could have. Bill Pullman, Pedro Pascal and Sanders also work to fill their part of the story especially well. Fuqua takes his action seriously, and the script by Richard Wenk manages to give us characters we can care about. The back and forth between Washington and Sanders is also intelligently explored, considering this is a storyline that has been done numerous times before.

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The sequel, much like the original, doesn’t rely on non-stop action. It is a slow build with bursts of violence. Thus the impact of when things go down makes for a few intensely suspenseful sequences. There is a storm building, and as an audience member you can feel it. Fuqua creates a tension fueled environment that is more effective than just a bunch of shootouts and fist fights. While that kind of thing works well enough in many an action flick, if you have Denzel Washington as your leading man, you don’t want to waste his talents on that. Again, this partnership between actor and director is a big part of what makes this work as well as it does.

THE EQUALIZER 2 is a smart and stylish sequel, one that manages to give Washington’s Robert McCall a satisfying second chapter. While we learn more about him, he still remains somewhat a mystery. Not only did it work in the context of this film, it also helps warrant another sequel. Denzel Washington is excellent as McCall, and he brings out the best in Richard Wenk’s script. If you are a fan of the original film, you will very likely appreciate this latest chapter. In fact, here’s hoping that these fine talents team up for a number 3.