I can't deny that nobody can pull off a hat like Denzel, though.
In fall of 2014, the first Equalizer film came rolling into theaters. It was a perfectly enjoyable revenge-flick at that — nothing earth-shattering or even that rememberable, but entertaining enough where most of the audience was willing to go around with it.
Now, the Hollywood gods among us have decided to turn the Equalizer into a franchise, as we’re now being hit with The Equalizer 2.
The plot, like the first one, is relatively simple: Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is the nice next-door neighbor who will always stop to help carry your groceries up the stares or to guide an elderly lady across the street — something we’re reminded of again and again in The Equalizer 2.
He’s perfectly nice, that is, unless you get on his bad side. If you find yourself in that situation, you might as well just kneel down and start praying for mercy, because this guy can take out an entire army in under 60-seconds.
That’s not an exaggeration, either. McCall literally times himself whenever he gets in a fist-fight — he’s that much of a perfectionist.
The events of the first Equalizer, along with the passing of his wife (I don’t remember if that was ever actually mentioned in the first film, but she’s apparently been dead for a really long time so that’s not a spoiler or anything), have left him a little cold. He’s ready to hang up that life and just keep things simple from now on.
So, he moves to Massachusetts, gets a job as a Lyft driver and looks to quietly disappear.
We all know that it’s not going to last, as that wouldn’t make for much of a movie. When one of his old colleagues — Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) — seems to be in danger, McCall has no choice but to re-enter the world he left behind.
Because, apparently, just telling the police about it isn’t enough. Who needs justice when you have a safe house full of guns built into your bookshelf?
Coming back means that McCall is also going to have to rely on some of his old friends — namely Dave York (Pedro Pascal of Game of Thrones and Kingsman 2), as they used to be in the army together. York now holds some kind of ambiguous government position that allows him to do pretty much whatever he wants so, hey, I guess it’s good to have friends in high places.
As McCall he begins tracking down the men responsible, the bloodshed follows shortly behind (seriously, this movie will go from a 1 to about a 15 in a matter of a few seconds), as he tries to work his way up the ladder to find out who’s really responsible.
It sounds like the same plot as the first Equalizer, right? Well, that’s because it basically is — almost down to a tee, at some points.
I’m of the mindset where I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. People aren’t going into Equalizer movies because they want a bunch of dramatic speeches or to deal with the morality that may be involved in taking a man’s life — they just want to see Denzel Washington kick some ass.
To The Equalizer 2’s credit, we do eventually get to see that and, when it finally comes, it’s pretty entertaining to watch.
It does, however, take a long, long time to actually get to that point. In fact, at the 45-minute mark of the movie, I still wasn’t even sure what The Equalizer 2 was about or if there was any kind of plot whatsoever.
We begin with a cold-open that shows McCall on a train near Turkey (I guess he somehow got the money to do this at an international level? Even though he never leaves the country again after this scene?), tracking down a missing girl. It sets up an action scene that, in a vacuum, works perfectly fine.
He then returns to the United States, making us think that the movie is actually about to begin. 20 minutes later, though, we get another introduction to McCall’s character — only this time, he’s taking out a bunch of bad guys in a high-rise apartment.
Again, this scene works perfectly fine in a vacuum and is actually pretty well shot, but at this point, we’re now close to 30 minutes into the movie and it hasn’t even started to tell us what the plot it.
This goes on for some time. We have a bunch of useless side-stories — one involving an elderly man and a painting, another involving McCall’s neighbor Miles (Ashton Sanders) who is trying to stay away from drugs and get into art school — that only exist to show that McCall is a nice guy who cares about other people, only hurting them when he has to.
There’s a way to do that effectively and Miles does, somewhat, factor into the climax of the movie, but there’s no reason that it has to take so long to get there. You could cut down the entire first hour of the movie into a 15-minute window, and The Equalizer 2 would be a much better movie.
When it actually does start to pick-up, it’s entertaining enough. Denzel is out there being Denzel, which isn’t a bad thing, and Pedro Pascal is actually a fun addition.
The last 30-minutes or so might feel like a gritty Call of Duty map with a setting that the director completely pulled out of his ass, as it has nothing to do with the rest of the movie and he clearly just thought it would be cool scenery for an action scene, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I thoroughly enjoyed what I was watching in these moments.
That’s what is kind of baffling, really — The Equalizer 2 shouldn’t be all that hard of a movie to make, as it’s a simple premise with a simple payoff. The audience is certainly enjoying themselves when we get to that payoff, but it’s since a bumpy and uneven road to get there that you have to question whether the journey is one that’s worth taking or not. It’s almost like director Antoine Fuqua had a great idea for his third act and spent all his time developing that, and then panicked when he realized he had nothing for act one or two so he filled it with a bunch of stuff with no meaning.
Watch the trailer for The Equalizer 2 here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of the movie!
'The Equalizer 2' review: It's not exactly just more of the same5