Denzel Washington is one of the great actors of our time. With irresistible charisma and panache, he is a true tour de force every time he graces the screen. Yet it has taken until 2018 for him to star in his very first sequel, The Equalizer 2. The first movie was a 2014 surprise hit and starred Denzel as Bob McCall, a calm and likeable man with a hidden set of skills to serve vengeance against anyone who dares to brutalise the helpless.
And you can certainly see why Denzel chose this to be his first sequel. For the most part, Equalizer 2 is a stylish, gripping thriller with Washington once again truly outstanding in the lead role. However, it falls short of the first film due to a fairly underwhelming story and some lacklustre moments which simply came across as dopey.
Now living in Boston, Bob McCall has settled into his new life as a taxi driver. But soon he must seek retribution once more, when a group of mysterious men begin hunting the only real friends he has left.
The story takes time to develop, with the majority of the first act dedicated to McCall’s new job as a driver and his everyday life. But what it lacks in cohesion, it certainly makes up for in heart. These early sequences are beautifully done, expertly nailing the life of a cab driver and the many people they meet on a daily basis.
Then the plot finally kicks in. To say the film goes up a gear is an understatement, with the pace rising and the action taken up a notch as Denzel begins to wreak havoc. But even with the storyline now in place and building to a climax, it never quite elevates itself beyond the boundaries of its genre to become something more.
The film does a lot of things right, but with a few minor changes and more thought provided to the script, this could’ve been something really special. In particular, an absurd subplot involving an elderly gentleman and the holocaust which felt out of place and misjudged. And then there’s the finale. The final act has the action you wish for, but it takes place in such a random and offbeat location that I could just never feel invested. There’s no denying it’s different and slick, but it is odd and lazy to say the least.
The saving grace in all this is Denzel himself. A man who seeks retribution on the guilty, Washington certainly brings it and delivers emotion rarely seen in action flicks these days. It’s no understatement to say that this is one of the finest performances you’ll likely to ever see in a mainstream action-thriller.
As well as the lead star, Director Antoine Fuqua (who also helmed Denzel in the riveting Training Day) once again showcases his talents, creating an evocative street feel to the proceedings which is reminiscent of classic 80s/90s Michael Mann fare such as Thief and Heat.
Also, with strong supporting work from Melissa Leo and Pedro Pascal, this is an overall solid old-fashioned thriller in this unlikely franchise. With Denzel’s first sequel now in the history books, can he be persuaded to come back for a trilogy closer? Let’s hope so.
Verdict: Slick direction, strong action and a commanding Denzel Washington makes this unlikely sequel a welcome diversion.
Best Moment: McCall goes in on a passenger in his car.
You can see screening times for The Equalizer 2 here: