The Equalizer 2 Review: Second time is clearly not the charm
One sets out to watch this film more for the action choreography than for life lessons, and unfortunately, on that count too, this Antoine Fuqua film doesn't deliver the goods
Denzel Washington's Robert McCall from The Equalizer series is a disturbed hero, or rather a pretty disturbing hero. His sense of machismo and masculinity is pretty warped despite trying to be deeply philosophical. However, you set out to watch a film like The Equalizer 2 more for the action choreography than for life lessons and unfortunately, on that count too, this Antoine Fuqua film doesn't deliver the goods.
Based on a 1980s TV series, The Equalizer is a simple story of a former government operative who becomes a vigilante with impeccable choices in literature, a baritone voice and an expressionless demeanour, basically Batman without the cool gadgets. What seemed fresh in the first instalment feels underwhelming in The Equalizer 2. McCall's idiosyncrasies, like carefully folding tissue papers and timing his attack on various henchmen, make a comeback in the sequel but the impact is far less pronounced this time.
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Denzel Washington, Melissa Leo, Pedro Pascal
Denzel, who plays a John Wick-meets-Travis Bickle kind of a protagonist is a Lyft driver this time around who metes out vigilante justice for untold crimes during his rides. While his inner Bickle gets satisfied with saving a disillusioned kid on the wrong path, played here by Moonlight-fame Ashton Sanders, it is the John Wick characterisation that holds the film together. Playing a no-nonsense ex-Marine, McCall is forced to unleash hell after the death of his friend and former handler Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo).
While hand-to-hand combat sequences between McCall and various antagonists in the film are stunningly orchestrated with copious amounts of bloodshed, incessant maiming and gore, it soon becomes a case of one too many. By the time the final set-piece comes on screen, a sense of exhaustion sets in. Even the final showdown, shot literally in the eye of a storm, is a drawn out and futile exercise in excess.
Unlike in the first part, the dialogues in The Equalizer 2 are a major letdown barring the interaction between McCall and the primary antagonist and a Training Day-reminiscent scene between Denzel and Ashton. However, it is not all bleak in this sequel, especially in the writing department. The choices of books read by Denzel in the sequel is a far cry from the classics like Ernest Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea in the first part. While he was trying to reconnect with his deceased wife by reading her favourite books in the first instalment, this time it is clear that Denzel has upgraded his reading choices and sounds more measured and philosophical. It might have a lot to do with him now reading Ta-Nehisi Coates and Marcel Proust. The same sense of detailing goes missing in those all-important reveals in this film that are rather predictable. Denzel clearly has a ball playing this role, especially considering that The Equalizer 2 is his first-ever sequel in his 37-year-old career. However, the sense of lethargy in the proceedings threatens to crumble the film that is primarily built on Denzel's zen-like performance. This 122-minute action thriller throws a lot of punches, but most of them don't land thanks to the pronounced lack of urgency.
Though there is a hint of yet another film in this series, and the director himself has shown interest in helming the same, it would require a lot more than just well-orchestrated violence, highly-rated books and a Denzel in top form to pique the audience's interest in this franchise.