THE EQUALIZER 2
** SPOILERS **
The Equalizer 2 plays right into that time-honored stage trope: if you say that there's a storm coming in Act 1, then that storm better come in like a motherfucker and you fight all the bad guys in it in Act III. Director Antoine Fuqua's The Equalizer 2 resists calling itself the logical title of The Sequelizer; nonetheless, this is Denzel Washington's first-ever sequel in his illustrious career. Denzel returns as Robert McCall, a Boston native and former CIA operative with a certain set of skills and a hole in his lonely soul he can only fill by putting the hurt on very bad people. As established in the previous film, McCall is a man who believes in pure justice and will apply his certain set of skills on behalf of the unfortunate souls who cross his path and need his help. He's intelligent, unrelenting, and unstoppable. If you need the Equalizer, you can reach him via your Lyft app.
In the years since he massacred the entire Russian mafia to help a teenage prostitute (Chloe Grace Moretz) get her life on track, McCall has left his job as a beloved manager at Home Depot. His vigilante activities require him to set his own hours, plus he needs to be amongst the people to figure out who is worthy of his incredible talent for murder. Like old man Logan, McCall entered the livery business; the many scenes of him scooting all over Boston and taxiing people to and fro are the most entertaining scenes in the movie. For all of the driving around, however, The Equalizer 2 is slow to get where it ultimately wants to go. The many, many scenes of Bob behind the wheel or trying to help out his neighbors, who had their apartment building and garden vandalized, are intermittently interspersed with, you know, the actual plot of the movie.
Bob is eventually pulled into a quest for revenge when his best friend and former CIA overseer Melissa Leo is murdered in Brussels. All signs point to Pedro Pascal, Bob's former teammate when they were running black ops together for the agency and sure enough, Pascal is the bad guy. There was never any doubt about this. The way McCall calls him out is a clever reversal of the villain threatening the hero's family; Bob drops by with all smiles and gets Pascal's wife and kids to warm up to him. They're blissfully unaware they're human shields while McCall plays Pascal right into his trap. After threatening Pascal and his mercenary buddies lives by telling them flat out he's going to murder them, McCall goes and does exactly that.
The original Equalizer climaxed with an extended shootout of McCall against the Russian mafia at Home Depot. Once more, McCall takes on his enemies on his home turf: he booby traps his seaside hometown of Marshfield, MA Home Alone-style and decimates Pascal's men in the middle of a typhoon. McCall effortlessly navigates his quaint New England hamlet completely unbothered by the relentless rain and wind, delivering methodical and brutal vengeance as the Right Hand of God. It's satisfying watching Denzel annihilate bad people, yet at the same time, he is never truly challenged, rarely injured, and he's not once in any actual danger. By staging the climactic battle in the midst of Mother Nature's wrath, The Equalizer 2 flat out announces that Bob McCall is the real force of nature.
Overall a drab affair, The Equalizer 2 takes quite a long while to shift into gear, yet it's comforting to ride along with Bob McCall. Even though he's a mass murderer, he is a righteous one and deep down we know he is the good guy. His murders are actually much lower key this time around; compared to the first movie, McCall's body count is seriously reduced. With no Moretz as his youthful foil, McCall is paired up with a troubled young artist named Miles (Ashton Sanders) whom he saves from becoming a gangbanger and tries to teach some life lessons to, but Miles doesn't exactly win the audience over. The question now is whether Denzel will actually set another precedent and make another Sequelizer. Maybe he will if we leave him a five-star rating.