TL;DR – While not in any way revolutionary, it takes the familiar pieces and presents them in a really captivating way, anchored by a powerful performance by Denzel Washington.
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
So I am going to begin this review with a confession, I have never seen the first Equaliser film, nor the TV series it is based off. Indeed I didn’t even know there was a TV series until I saw it in the credits. To add to this I was not even planning to go see The Equaliser 2 today so I didn’t have the presence to watch the first film before going in, so as I was going in I thought I should at least read through the synopsis. Just reading what happened made me truly wonder how I missed it? However, film history is full of sequels that don’t live up to the original, so let’s take a look at a world power does not protect you.
So to set the scene, we open on a train making its way through the Turkish countryside to Istanbul, on the train, there is a little girl, her father, and a man reading a book. As the father walks to the bar, the man follows him and reveals that he is a man who fixes the wrongs that people in power think they could get away with, say a man stealing his daughter away from her mother. It is here that the man reveals himself to be Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) and gives the man a choice, do the right thing or have the right thing forced upon him, three dead goons later and the daughter is returned. For you see McCall, was an ex-CIA black-ops who has gone into a sort of hiding with the death of his wife. In-between giving people Lyft’s McCall tries to right the wrongs that he can find, but all of that goes away when the one link to his past life Susan (Melissa Leo) is murdered while investigating the apparent murder/suicide of a deep cover CIA asset.
The first thing I really want to champion with this film is the pacing which is one of the things that separates The Equaliser from its competitors. The film gives time for the characters and plot to breathe in-between the different action set pieces. This is really important because it creates threads that help bind the world together and makes it feel like a real world with real people. Did the film need to spend time with the man contemplating whether or not he could get through the day without a drink, or the soldier going off to his first tour of duty, well no. But what it does is in those moments it builds a world, a very real one that we live in, but just because it is real does not mean you can skimp on the worldbuilding. Another bonus of this is that it helps build tension because we know who McCall is, his morals and drive, so from the moment those douchebag business guys put that poor lady into the car you knew where it was going to end up. Because of this worldbuilding, the film actually takes quite a while to actually reveal its hand, but this actually works for it.
When we look at the story proper, and because we are doing that there will be [SPOILERS] ahead. Once the film gets into its plot proper the first thing you notice is just how predictable the plot becomes. There are absolutely no shocks as to who the bad guy is, even without the casting kind of already giving the game away. Now in a lesser film, this would be quite a problem because that’s the only thing going for you but not so here. The Equaliser fits into a group of films that feature retired or undercover former badasses who then act out their badassery to the unsuspecting criminals/spies/etc that come after them. There are a lot of these types of films and The Equaliser 2 is one of the better versions of this, fitting in-between RED and John Wick on the ‘oh damn, did that just happen?’ spectrum. Part of this is the commitment of Denzel Washington to really sell the role, the man can command the scene with just a single stare. The action is edited quite fast but in a way that you always know what is going on with one of the more inventive car chases that I have seen in a while. Add to this, a big props to the art and special/visual effects departments from creating a hurricane and then shooting most of the third act in it, which must not have been a fun time on set at all. Also, all of those threads spun throughout the film all come to fruition in those last moments, and I am a brave enough man to admit it emotionally broke me.
In the end, do we recommend The Equaliser 2? Yes, yes we do. The action is solid, the emotional beets have weight, and the strong acting and direction make up for some of the more overdone parts of the plot. Now if you excuse me I am now going to go find if any of the local streaming services have the first Equaliser because I want to see if “McCall kills Itchenko’s henchmen one by one using booby traps constructed with items in the store ” is as crazy as it sounds.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Equaliser 2
Directed by – Antoine Fuqua
Screenplay by – Richard Wenk
Based on – The Equalizer created by Michael Sloan & Richard Lindheim
Music by – Harry Gregson-Williams
Cinematography by – Oliver Wood
Edited by – Conrad Buff IV
Starring – Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Melissa Leo, Bill Pullman, Sakina Jaffrey, Jonathan Scarfe, Kazy Tauginas, Garrett Golden & Orson Bean
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: na; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: na; United States: R