Denzel Washington reprises role of ‘Revenge Man’
In this endless summer of sequels, The Equalizer 2 stimulates that part of your brain that likes to see things go boom and bad guys get pummeled, while allowing the part that likes to solve things and think deeply to go nappy time.
It also has a guy named Denzel Washington, who supplies his every line with grace and punches up the quality of a rote script tenfold simply by being on screen. He and director Antoine Fuqua teamed up for the first installment in 2014, and are back together to continue this cinematic update of an OK TV show and create a sequel that’s actually well worth your time. It’s fast food, but it’s good fast food.
Washington is Robert McCall, a former special ops guy with a taste for vigilantism and tea. He’s just sort of hanging out in Boston, working as a Lyft driver and painting over graffiti at his apartment complex when word comes that a good friend bit the dust at the hands of mystery killers. McCall doesn’t like it when you kill his friends. McCall doesn’t like that at all. In fact, it’s fair to say McCall will do bad things to you for such acts.
He goes on a search for the killer(s), and you will figure out who the bad people are fairly quickly. The Equalizer 2 isn’t worried about tricking you with any mysteries; it wants to set up some scenarios for McCall’s vicious showdowns with bad folks, something Fuqua delivers multiple times with bloody action gusto.
Sequences include a dust up on a train in Turkey with McCall in full-beard disguise calmly drinking his tea before dispatching multiple attackers in the most improbable yet totally badass way. (Does the teapot become a weapon? What do you think?) There’s also a shootout in a hurricane, reminiscent of Harrison Ford’s showdown at the end of Patriot Games. And Fuqua makes these sequences pop in a way that improves upon his work in the first film.
This time out, McCall comes off as a combination of Michael Myers of Halloween and the Batman. He’s almost supernatural in his abilities to disarm and dispatch his victims. Doesn’t matter how many guns, hammers or blades are coming at him, he’s going to win. And there’s so much knife play in The Equalizer 2 that it sometimes plays like a slasher film. Balancing out the nasty violence, Washington plays the role with as much finesse as he does those in his various Oscar-nominated efforts. He’s just so damned cool.
There are other actors in this movie, like Melissa Leo, Pedro Pascal and Ashton Sanders (Moonlight). They all do serviceable work but, let’s face it, many of the people in this film are here to have their noses broken, necks twisted and fingers pulled apart.
There were a couple of plot threads that could’ve been dropped, but the one featuring Sanders’ character is one of the better parts of the film. Sanders plays Miles, a wannabe art student who dabbles in gang activity and, playing a fatherly role, Washington has some quality screen time with him.
Back when the first Equalizer came out, I openly wished for it to become a franchise. With this—Washington’s first participation in a sequel of any kind—I got my wish. However, even though I feel there’s no need to stop, with the way this one finishes, it could be the last.