Four years after director Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington teamed up in the extremely violent but uneven big-screen remake of TV’s The Equalizer, they are back with a sequel that happens to be the first time for both of them to do so.
In this sequel, Robert McCall (Washington) is now living in Boston, where he passes his time working as a Lyft driver. When McCall finds out something bad happens to his former CIA handler Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) in Paris, he starts digging up the truth and connects all the dots, leading him to another violent encounter that forces him to get his hands dirty.
The Equalizer 2 sees both Fuqua and returning screenwriter Richard Wenk retains the same slow-burn approach that echoes the subdued tone of the original. Which is actually fine by me, provided they manage to improve upon the erratic pacing of the first movie.
Too bad this isn’t the case since the sequel spends too much time diverting the main storyline with few episodic stretches (the part where McCall strikes up a father figure-like friendship with a troubled teenage neighbour, Ashton Sanders’ Miles Whittaker quickly comes to mind). There are actually strong moments between these two characters, particularly the dramatic scene where McCall gets all fired up after finding out about Miles hanging out with the wrong kids. But those moments are few and far between, which isn’t enough to justify the overall existence of Ashton Sanders’ supporting character. If only Wenk’s script made him pivotal to the story, it would have been a better result altogether.
Still, The Equalizer 2 remains sporadically entertaining. The gore and violence are all intact, while some of the action sequences — especially the one involved a fight set-piece inside the speeding car, complete with Kim Jee-Woon’s I Saw the Devil-like virtuoso 360-degree camerawork — are thrillingly staged by Fuqua. It’s just that the violent finale set against the backdrop of a (CG) raging storm feels sadly underwhelming.
Likewise, Denzel Washington is the major reason why even a half-baked Equalizer franchise makes the first one along with this sequel fairly watchable. He pulls off a typically engaging performance as always and still looking sharp playing a physically-demanding role, even at the age of 63. The rest of the actors are a mixed bag, with some good (such as McCall’s former CIA partner, Pedro Pascal’s Dave York) and others either disappointingly average or forgettable (like Bill Pullman’s thankless small role as Susan Plummer’s husband, Brian).