While THE EQUALIZER 2 offers a more compelling and higher stakes story than its predecessor, its slow pace and weak script means it ultimately fails to find its footing
It’s fair to say that the original THE EQUALIZER was a bit of a surprise hit. The 2014 film which follows a former C.I.A. operative turned vigilante, took an impressive $192 million at the box office. Four years later, Denzel Washington and director Antoine Fuqua reunite for the second instalment.
After successfully accomplishing a rescue mission, THE EQUALIZER 2 sees Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) trying to keep a low profile as a Lyft driver. After his beloved friend, Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) gets murdered while investigating a mysterious assassination, McCall decides to investigate and uncovers an ugly plot which hits close to home. After this startling discovery, he must use his wits and talents to survive and protect the innocent people closest to him.
While THE EQUALIZER 2 offers a more compelling and higher stakes story than its predecessor, it is also much more brutal and violent. While the original had its fair share of bloody acts of vengeance, Fuqua takes graphic violence to a whole new level in the sequel. Expect to see bones crunch during hand-to-hand combat, blood spurt from knife wounds and heads blown apart with guns. For a story in which as man seeks justice through violence, this all doesn’t come much of a shock but as a consequence, the film loses some of what made it unique. McCall kills a lot of people, most of the time very grotesquely, and after a while, you begin to wonder whether this disturbing brutality is actually a method to distract from the script.
The biggest flaw with THE EQUALIZER 2 is Richard Wenk‘s weak script. What made the original so appealing was that McCall helped people who were powerless to help themselves. Here, however, McCall is on a personal mission and it just doesn’t have the same emotional impact. The film takes way too long to pick up steam and when it finally does, it jumps all over the place. It also pursues far too many sub-stories. Where THE EQUALIZER focused on one abused girl, THE EQUALIZER 2 is full of multiple short stories, as well as McCall’s personal vendetta. As a result, character development takes a bit of a back step and the film never really finds its footing.
Thankfully, some of the elements pull off. McCall’s daily routine as a Lyft driver and his interactions with his customers are raw, honest, and human. His growing relationship with his troubled neighbour Miles Whittaker (Ashton Sanders) is also full of nuance, depth and emotion, helping us to better understand McCall as a person.
Denzel Washington, of course, also delivers as the intelligent and caring badass Robert McCall. It is a role he owns well even if the script somewhat hinders his chance to really shine. Elsewhere, Ashton Sanders is strong as Miles Whittaker and Pedro Pascal delivers a decent if somewhat undynamic performance as McCall’s former partner Dave York.
Like the original, the story leads to a dramatic ending – a tense shootout during a hurricane – yet despite the pounding waves and forceful winds, it ultimately lacks the stomach-churning, revenge-fuelled antics of the original.
All in all, THE EQUALIZER 2 isn’t a bad film but what could have been the start of a proper cinematic franchise for Washington soon gets clogged before the payoff. The action and fight scenes are impressive and you can’t fail to be won over by the charms of Washington, but the film ultimately fails to completely hook you for its full two-hour run time.
THE EQUALIZER 2 is released in UK cinemas from 17 August 2018.
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.