Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writers: Richard Wenk, Michael Sloan (based on the television series created by)
Stars: Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, Sakina Jaffrey, Jonathan Scarfe, Orson Bean
Denzel The Elevator
I’m trying to recall the last Denzel Washington movie that actually sucked, a film so devoid of any entertainment value that not even his performance could save it*. Hell, he even made The Taking of Pelham 123 at least watchable.
You’d be hard-pressed to name another current actor who almost always makes movies better just because he’s in them. Case-in-point, Washington’s understated, complex performance as Robert McCall is what elevated 2014’s The Equalizer from an action movie to a great action movie (with considerable help from director Antoine Fuqua). He so effectively made the character his own that we tended to forget it was originally played by Edward Woodward.
Considering its TV origins, it’s only fitting that The Equalizer is the one film Denzel has chosen to make a sequel to. Though the law of diminishing returns certainly applies here, The Equalizer 2 continues McCall’s ongoing mission of righting wrongs with violent retribution. The stakes, however, are more personal this time. One of the few friends who knows he’s still alive, former co-DIA operative Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo), is murdered while investigating the alleged murder-suicide by another agent’s family. After further investigation – and revealing himself to another ex-colleague, Dave York (Pedro Pascal) – McCall learns everyone on his old team are targets, himself now included.
That plot line is actually pretty pedestrian, with an antagonist who isn’t nearly as interesting – or malevolent – as Nicolai Itchenko from the first film. Much more engaging are the numerous subplots where McCall – when not side-gigging as a Lyft driver – provides justice for other people he happens to know. In fact, his relationship with wayward teen Miles (Ashton Sanders) becomes the emotional crux of the entire film (not-to-mention a convenient plot device during the final act). I suspect everyone involved with the film knew these vignettes were superior to the main plot because they comprise a significant portion of the running time.
The Equalizer 2 is not as good as the first one, but Denzel Washington’s performance manages to yet-again elevate a film what would have otherwise been a routine shoot-’em-up. Director Antoine Fuqua keeps the action exciting and bloody, while never forgetting who makes these films worth seeing.
*In this writer’s humble opinion, that movie would be 1990’s Heart Condition.