Tag Archives: Antoine Fuqua

The Equalizer 2 (2018) Blu-Ray Review By D.M. Anderson

Equalizer 2

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.

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Southpaw (2015) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier

SOUTPAW

Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writer: Kurt Sutter
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Oona Laurence

Plot:  A champion boxer fights to get his daughter back from child protective services as well as revive his professional career, after a fatal incident sends him on a rampant path of destruction.

Running Time: 124 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 60%   Audience 75%

Why I watched it: Gyllenhaal, for my money right now he’s the best actor working.

Thoughts: Maybe Romantic Comedies are more formulaic but sport movies are close, call them cliches or troupes but sport movies have a rhythm all their own and when they work they’re like a warm blanket.

I also want to talk about Jake Gyllenhaal, when I say he’s the best actor working today I don’t say that lightly, for me he becomes the role and he doesn’t have a stock role where you say “oh he’s just playing the same guy again.”  He changes in every movie, which all actors should do.

What I liked: Goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway it’s Gyllenhaal, he’s the best thing in this movie, it’s a very good performance.  He has a huge arc and he also has to change to keep his family and livelihood.  He also has to do something very tricky for actors, well two things, he plays a guy who doesn’t talk a lot and isn’t school smart, I don’t want to say dumb cause he isn’t, but he is use to someone else making the big decisions for him.  Most actors would go broad or over the top but Gyllenhaal grounds his performance, he’s never a cartoon or a cliche. I also what to give props to Forest Whitaker, this role is as old as movies, the trainer/coach.

He also goes about it different, he’s not loud, he’s not preachy, he seems tired, world weary, also a guy who doesn’t talk about his feelings but shows by his actions, this was also a nice performance and the two actors fed off each other well.  Rachel McAdams was good and I wished she was in it more, I would have liked to see this marriage and partnership more. The boxing scenes were fine, not terrible but solid enough, everyone looked like they were in shape and you believed them to be athletes.

What I didn’t like: This was very cookie cutter as far as the formula goes, and also the speed his life goes from great to terrible happens very quick.  To go through courts to have your stuff taken your daughter taken that takes time, this happens as quick as I’ve ever seen from penthouse to outhouse.  Also the handling of the daughter, when he goes to see her, man that doesn’t feel real, I’ve gone through a separation and had to see my kids kind of liked that and by they Hollywooded up big time.

Those moments are two big and really is a discount to the rest of the film, the daughter seems like a plot point more than anything else, here she’s mean, and of course she screams she wished he was dead, really over all these years we still go back to that, and no a child wouldn’t be able to pitch that big of a fit, she would have been brought a side to calm down.  I wished they would have played the father+Daughter scenes better, more real emotions and less melodrama.

The also wasted Naomie Harris, I have no idea why she was in this movie. I also would like to point out that the main plot is someone gets killed, now amazingly, we never deal with that legally, sure their quick to take his home away but shouldn’t there have been an investigation, by just sweeping that whole thing under the rug they made it seem like a plot point and something that made the movie happen.

Final thoughts: For the most part I liked the film, the performances for me is why I would recommend it.  I wish director Antoine Fuqua matched his performance behind the camera to that of Gyllenhaal did in front of it.

Rating: 6/10