McCall it a day, already
Fans of the 1980s TV series The Equalizer can hang it up; the movie franchise it inspired has left it behind. Two movies may not exactly constitute a franchise, but surely there’ll be more—anytime Denzel Washington and director Antoine Fuqua feel the need to burnish their box-office record.
They’re both back for this sequel, and it has desperate need of them—of Washinton’s implacable charisma and Fuqua’s robust command of pace and style. Because writer Richard Wenk is back too, and he’s just flat out of ideas. Once again, Washington is Robert McCall, former ace government operative now living a life of quiet retirement in his spartan Boston apartment. That is, when he’s not going to bat for the abused and downtrodden. In the TV series, McCall discreetly advertised his services, but Washington’s McCall prefers to mind his own business until some injustice catches his attention. We first see him rescuing an American child abducted by her Turkish father and taken out of the country. His reason: The girl’s mother runs his favorite bookstore. So he brings the girl home—but not before killing the father’s bodyguards (what he does to the father is left to our imaginations).
Then it’s a gang-rape victim whose rapists make the mistake of calling him on their Lyft app to take her home. Instead, he takes her to a hospital, then comes back to settle their hash. “It’s great you’re helping all these random people,” says his former boss Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo), “and staying off the radar.” How a Lyft driver stays off the radar after maiming four rapists—no matter how much they had it coming—is also left to our imaginations.
In fact, we in the audience have to bring a lot of imagination to The Equalizer 2 because Richard Wenk brings very little. What started out in the TV series—and to a lesser degree in the first movie—as a sort of modern-day Have Gun, Will Travel is reduced this time to a simple revenge fantasy. Susan Plummer is murdered by robbers in her Brussels hotel while investigating the suicide of a Belgian CIA asset. But the suicide was no suicide, and Susan’s murder was no simple robbery; they were connected in something much bigger. McCall is able to deduce all this because—well, because he’s Robert McCall, and he’s played by Denzel Washington. He even manages to access the records of the Brussels police from the discomfort of his Boston apartment. While staying off the radar.
I won’t disclose who’s behind all this. We can spot the culprit within seconds of his first appearance, before a word passes his lips—but you know the Spoiler Police. Besides, there are no real surprises in Wenk’s script; let’s just pretend to be surprised just this once.
“I’m gonna kill each and every one of you,” McCall tells the four baddies. “The only disappointment is that I only get to do it once.” And he does. Because he’s Robert McCall. And he’s played by Denzel Washington.