|Worth seeing:||to watch Denzel Washington dispense justice in cool and calm fashion, while a cumbersome and predictable revenge thriller plays out in the background|
|Featuring:||Denzel Washington, Melissa Leo, Pedro Pascal, Abigail Marlowe, Adam Karst, Antoine de Lartigue, Ashton Sanders, Bill Pullman, Caroline Day, Garrett Golden, Jonathan Scarfe, Karen Strong, Kazy Tauginas, Orson Bean, Rory Benjamin Smith|
|Released:||17th August 2018|
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Mild-mannered, middle-aged Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) earns a living from driving a cab for an app-hailing service around Boston.
He spends his spare time reading books, drinking tea – and using his ex-spy skills as an undercover vigilante, travelling the world to helping out local strangers – using whatever means he deems necessary.
On his red-brick housing estate, he cleans graffiti off walls and encourages a teenager to shun a gang lifestyle to concentrate on his art. He does his best to help out his cab-customers, assisting a local holocaust survivor in his search for a family heirloom.
But he also finds himself flitting across the US to find the killers of a CIA friend (Melissa Leo) who was, herself, investigating the murder of an allied spy in Brussels.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
You could think of The Equalizer 2 as one of those aprons with the design of a tuxedo on it. From a distance, it could look quite smart, but up close, it’s not what you might have been expecting.
There are plenty of entertaining elements, which might have been a more comfortable fit in another film, but here seem a little clunky.
The essence of the central character – who first entered the public sphere through Edward Woodward’s portrayal in the 1980s TV show – is an unsuspecting vigilante helping people who don’t even know he exists – and Denzel Washington certainly does that here, but it’s only ever as a side-story – little-more than a character-building plot device.
But we know his character already – and that’s what we want from this film – we want to see him equalizing things – implementing a crude but speedy form of justice for wronged civilians.
Instead, director Antoine Fuqua weaves scenes – such as one in which he defends the honour of a woman who’s been abused by a bunch of heavy-drinking bankers – into a revenge thriller. But that’s not what Equalizer fans have signed up for.
It’s unexpectedly peppered with some decent one-liners and it generally keeps the audience on side – even eliciting cheers from my fellow film-goers, when he successfully equalized situations, both at home and abroad.
Another fine scene centres on McCall’s handling of the confirmation of the true – and disappointingly predictable – villain of the piece and his formal meeting with this mastermind’s mindless cronies.
The overarching plot of the revenge-thriller at the heart of the film is similarly mindless and somewhat unconvincing, while the pacing is off – the crux of the film is, essentially, squeezed into a single scene. And to add to the viewing frustration, this takes place during a hurricane, so you can hardly seen what’s going on anyway.
This is the first time either Washington or Fuqua have entertained a sequel. It’ll probably work best as an effort to redress the #OscarsSoWhite balance in Hollywood, with a black director and arguably the world’s most bankable black star delivering a shameless piece of high-energy blockbuster entertainment. There’s something particularly satisfying about seeing an unassuming, paunchy, middle-aged man effortlessly dispensing justice to scum half his age.
It’s a film that’s unquestionably at its best when its protagonist is doing what its title suggests – equalizing things. After a strong pre-title sequence bit of equalizing, all of the equalizing just gets buried under the rubble of a broken revenge thriller.
Sadly, The Equalizer 2 strays too far and too often from its purpose – and its title. It simply doesn’t do enough of what it says on the tin, ending up being too personal and becoming more about vengeance than justice.