Walking out of The Equalizer 2, I had a feeling that I hadn’t felt in a long, long time. It’s a feeling that I don’t like and it’s a feeling that I knew would come eventually, but one I wasn’t prepared. It was the feeling of disappointment.
You might be thinking, “what do you mean you haven’t been disappointed in a movie in awhile?” That’s not the disappointment I’m talking about. I see over 150 movies a year and I’m disappointed in quite a few, unfortunately. No, the kind of disappointment I’m talking about hasn’t occurred since 2006.
This is the first time in twelve years that I have been disappointed in a Denzel Washington movie.
Washington is one of my favorite actors ever, if not my absolute favorite. Not necessarily the best I’ve ever seen (though he’s up there), but his combination of entertaining popcorn flicks mixed with Oscar dramas have allowed Washington to produce a prolific, diverse career. Not every Washington movie is perfect, but even his lesser ones are at the very least entertaining and fun which offers up a pleasant film-going experience.
But The Equalizer 2 is not entertaining or fun. It is a movie reminiscent of the men Washington beats up in the film: a bloody, disjointed mess.
The plot to this movie is insane and all over the place, as there are so many things happening, it’s hard to keep track or care about anything that happens. The movie starts off with an absurd train sequence where Robert McCall (Washington) is saving some little girl who was kidnapped. This is essentially used just to show that McCall is still a badass who wants to help people. McCall is essentially Batman, but instead of a cape and mask he has a flat cap and a watch.
Back in Boston, McCall is now a Lyft driver, because after you massacre half a dozen mobsters at the place you work, as McCall did in the first film, you probably need a new gig. We watch him go through his daily routine of picking people up, reading books, and beating the living hell out of people. He starts to think about his deceased wife and wishes he had more time with her and befriends and mentors Miles (Ashton Saunders), a teenager and artist who lives in his apartment building and is deciding whether or not to be a local gangster. But when his friend Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) dies investigating a murder in Turkey, McCall digs deep to find out who did it, only to find out that is goes deeper than he imagined.
What was best about the first film was the simplicity of the plot, yet the complexity of McCall. McCall is a former government special ops soldier who has put that life in rearview mirror and now lives a quiet life Boston working at a hardware store. That is until a girl he knows get’s beaten up and, in an act help her, gets caught up in battling the Russian mafia. It is the conflict of getting back into action to help an ordinary citizen that makes the first film great. It’s helped by also having a solid villain and one of the coolest climax’s of the decade as McCall takes out the Russian’s in the hardware store.
The Equalizer 2 offers up none of that. From the lifeless action to the spotty plot and awful villain, this movie offers up nothing fresh from the first film. McCall is just a fighting machine, that’s it. Even when he’s bonding with Miles, he leaves him at the drop of a hat to seek out revenge for his slain friend. McCall went from a man who was forced into a violent, threatening situation to a man who seeks out the violent, threatening situations all with no reason why. Why does he now seek this out? Did the last mission trigger something in McCall’s brain? Does he actually think he’s doing good? Is he bored?
The one aspect of the film that I did like was McCall’s relationship with Miles. This portion of the film is great because it actually gave us more of McCall’s personality. Miles is a confused teen and doesn’t know what he wants to do. McCall begins to push Miles, offering him painting jobs and continuously trying to keep him off the streets and in school. This is the McCall from the first film. The man who cares about people and doesn’t rely on violence first. It also helps the Saunders and Washington are great together. I would love to see them do another picture together.
Unfortunately, that’s only a tiny piece of the movie. The rest of the movie is dull and overlong. This is easily the longest two hour movie I’ve seen in 2018. There was a point where I thought the movie was almost over and there was still forty five minutes left. The movie is overstuffed with a bunch of small stories like McCall thinking back about his wife, his relationship with one of his frequent riders, and his small relationships with everyone in Boston. All of these sound interesting, but they’re only slightly fleshed out, acting only as time fillers than plot and character development.
Though I’m not a fan of this movie, I’m not worried one bit about Washington and his choice in movies. This is just a small misstep. A sequel to The Equalizer was a good idea on paper, but it needed to further the character. It needed to show us another side to McCall or dive deeper into his past. Maybe a prequel would have been a better answer to McCall’s story. But for now, it seems like the Equalizer franchise has been equalized.
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