Cast: Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal And Ashton Sanders Director: Antoine Fuqua
Choosing The Equalizer 2 as the first sequel of his career is an odd choice for Denzel Washington to make. The original film was neither a groundbreaking action thriller nor did Washington’s character make such a lasting impression that the world needed more of it. Given this background, one expects the sequel to be vastly superior for its existence to be justified. Sadly, that is not the case. The Equalizer 2 is a predictably mediocre sequel with nothing more exciting to add to an already unexceptional universe that it built.
Washington once again plays Robert McCall, the ex solja boy who now works as a friendly Lyft driver but also does side missions to help the downtrodden from gangsters.Things go awry when his CIA buddy Susan (Melissa Leo) goes missing and presumed dead. He is naturally pulled back into Mr Detective mode to find out what happened. He teams up with his other buddy Dave (Pedro Pascal) to track down Susan’s assailants and uncover the potboiler of a conspiracy that you expect in a film like this.
This is, of course, the fourth collaboration between Fuqua and Washington. Apart from Training Day, none of the other films, including this one, are worth writing home about. This duo works as the inverse of a Martin Scorsese-Leonardo DiCaprio combo where one expects perfectly average fare and you get even less spectacular material than that. There is a prevailing sense of out datedness in Fuqua’s direction – from his music video style shot taking to his use of generic music to enhance thrills. He also tries a little too hard to make everything look ‘cool’ but does not possess the artistry of either Shane Black or Michael Bay – the filmmakers he most tries to ape. The action scenes in this film make no impact despite the gratuitous nature of the slicing, dicing and head bashing that McCall provides to dozens of goons. His character is almost invulnerable. As an audience, you are confident that he is never going to die, so any threat towards him feels like a waste of time.
The lone bright spark is a sequence set in a train in the beginning of the film, which despite looking like a wannabe 007 situation, works as a tongue-in-cheek moment. One wishes the rest of the film carried the same amount of levity because all you get is a very long humorless wallow in dullness and predictability as McCall’s character essentially becomes a surrogate father to a wayward teenager (Ashton Sanders). Once the revenge and vigilante aspects come into play, the film only devolves into unsurprising schlock that takes itself too seriously for its own good. The gory revenge angle is no longer an exhilarating sub-genre in cinema and you would have to do something very original to keep audiences interested – Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy does exactly that by turning a similar Death Wish-like story into an audacious and hallucinogenic shroom trip. You are better off streaming that film at home than heading to the theaters to watch Washington groan through his own cash grabby Taken series.