What made The Equalizer (the first one) a thoroughly enjoyable, easy to consume experience is its simplicity. We have Denzel Washington essentially playing a character that’s not dissimilar to Liam Neeson’s in Taken — a quiet man who minds his own business, only to become a mean, green, killing machine when bad folk fu*k with the people he cares about (in the case of Denzel’s character, Robert McCall, it’s his young friend played by Chloe Grace Moretz). Once we have the basic premise established within the first 30 minutes or so, the remaining runtime focuses on the hyper-stylized ass-kicking and neck snapping. It’s a tried and tested formula, but it’s one that works.
Director Antoine Fuqua takes The Equalizer 2 in a different direction. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a decent amount of ass-whooping and head pounding, but it isn’t the focus anymore. This is a far more character driven movie and that, in concept at least, sounds great. Robert McCall is now a Lyft driver that doubles as a vigilante of sorts. He pays close attention (through his rear view mirror) to the behaviours of his passengers and listens attentively to the conversations they have over the phone. When a woman who appears to have been drugged gets into his Lyft, he tracks down the people who wronged her and brutally and gloriously beats the living shit out of them. Denzel Washington’s Lyft adventures are enjoyable, though they do go on for a little too long.
It takes a while before we actually get to the story and it is here where the movie starts to flounder. It’s difficult to fault writers and directors for wanting to do more and experiment. But for these types of movies to truly thrive, it needs to be focused. The driving force can be as simple as taking revenge on a gang of Russian punks for killing your dog. But here the screenplay by Richard Wenk, who also penned the first movie, is unnecessarily complicated.
There’s a murder case that’s being investigated by McCall’s friend, Susan (Melissa Leo). There’s a mysterious group of people (I say mysterious because the identity of the villain is kept secret until midway through the movie) who are trying to stop Susan from solving the murder. The reason why this case is so important and the reason why the group of villains want to prevent it from being solved is unclear, but there are men and women in suits and ties talking to each other through computer screens, just so we know it’s exceptionally important.
The Equalizer 2 never really gets going. It starts in third gear and maintains that non-intensity all throughout, even when the villain is revealed. Sure the action sequences become more bombastic as the movie plays along — in the first movie, the climax takes place in a warehouse, here it’s outdoors, with a lot of running around in thunderstorms — but not once did I feel a rush of adrenaline or a sudden jolt of energy. For the most part, I just sat back, relaxed and watched scenes come and go. The film isn’t excruciatingly boring — I wouldn’t mind watching Denzel Washington eat cake for two hours — but it isn’t riveting either, not even a little bit.
The biggest problem with The Equalizer 2 is that not once throughout the entire film did I believe our lead character was in any real danger. Look, I get it. He’s Denzel motherf*cking Washington. He can tear through 257 people blindfolded with both hands tied behind his back and make it believable, despite his age. Very much like Superstar Rajinikanth, who’s a 67-year-old grandpa and still kicking ass. But for us to root for and worry about their characters; for us to be invested in the story, directors need to find a way to convince us that they’re vulnerable and human. This vulnerability need not be physical. It can be more of a mental or emotional factor too. In fact, more often than not, breaking a protagonist mentally and/or emotionally will prove to be a more effective storytelling mechanism. The character needs to be torn down so that we have a reason to root for the rise that we all know is coming. But here, Robert McCall is always in control, he always has the upper hand even when he doesn’t. The man on fire is almost as indestructible as the man of steel. So, what’s the point?
There are also subplots and side characters who don’t really add anything to the story at hand. But, these characters bring quieter, more personal moments. And these moments show us exactly why Denzel Washington IS ONE OF THE BEST ACTEURS OF ALL TIME. There is a scene where Denzel puts a gun to a young boy’s face to teach him a lesson. I’ll be damned if I say it didn’t give me goosebumps. That scene alone is worth the ticket price, especially if you’re one who appreciates great performances.
I can’t help but feel that The Equalizer 2 would’ve been a much more effective piece of entertainment had it followed the mould of its predecessor. It definitely should have been at least 20 minutes shorter. Still, it’s never a struggle to watch an unbelievably talented individual work his magic on screen, even if it’s just for one scene.
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The Equalizer 2
The Equalizer 2 would've been a much more effective piece of entertainment had it followed the mould of its predecessor. It definitely should have been at least 20 minutes shorter. Still, it's never a struggle to watch an unbelievably talented individual work his magic on screen, even if it's just for one scene.
The Equalizer 2