DENZEL STILL EQUAL TO THE TASK

Pretoria News Weekend - - FILM - MICHAEL O’SUL­LI­VAN

IT’S PURELY un­in­ten­tional but the lit­tle nu­meral dan­gling from the end of the ti­tle of The Equalizer 2 sig­nals more than the fact this is a se­quel to the 2014 ac­tion thriller about a vi­o­lent vig­i­lante. It also lets you know that there are two, and only two, plea­sures to be had here.

The first – Denzel Wash­ing­ton in the ti­tle role as an ex-mil­i­tary man and former black ops agent who, in his 60s, uses his still­sharp martial arts skills and strict moral code as an aveng­ing an­gel for the mis­treated – is not in­con­sid­er­able. Even in medi­ocre ma­te­rial, Wash­ing­ton shines.

As Robert Mc­Call, a se­cre­tive, book­ish wid­ower who works as a Bos­ton-area Lyft driver while moon­light­ing as a one-man judge, jury and – if nec­es­sary – ex­e­cu­tioner, Wash­ing­ton is never less than watch­able, es­pe­cially when his stoic, slightly scary de­meanour sud­denly breaks, crack­ing open into an in­can­des­cent smile or hearty laugh.

The sec­ond plea­sure is more of an ac­quired taste. The first film cul­mi­nated in Mc­Call me­thod­i­cally killing an array of bad guys us­ing tools from the home im­prove­ment store where he worked at the time. Tak­ing place among the store aisles, drenched in an art­ful, ar­ti­fi­cial down­pour pro­duced by the sprin­kler sys­tem, the cli­mac­tic scene tick­led a cer­tain plea­sure cen­tre of the rep­tile brain: one that de­lights in watch­ing the wicked re­ceive their just deserts.

Sim­i­larly, Equalizer 2 moves in­ex­orably to­ward a vis­cer­ally grat­i­fy­ing crescendo of vi­o­lent re­venge. Once again, it’s pre­cip­i­tated by an act of bru­tal­ity against a wo­man, played here by Melissa Leo, repris­ing her role as Mc­Call’s long-time friend and former col­league at an un­named in­tel­li­gence agency. The for­mula isn’t com­pli­cated or par­tic­u­larly in­tel­li­gent, but it gets the job done. Here, the third act takes place as a hur­ri­cane is bear­ing down on a Mas­sachusetts coastal town that has been evac­u­ated by the po­lice. Hey, if it worked once .... A sub-plot in­volves Mc­Call’s men­tor­ship of an ar­tis­ti­cally tal­ented high school stu­dent (Ash­ton San­ders), whom Mc­Call is try­ing to keep on the straight and nar­row. That our hero in­tro­duces his young pro­tégé to such books as Ta-Ne­hisi Coates’s Be­tween the World and Me, while lec­tur­ing him about em­pow­er­ment and per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity, lends what might oth­er­wise be a Death Wish or Pu­n­isher knock-off a patina of en­light­en­ment.

It is, need­less to say, thin gruel. Not to men­tion en­tirely be­side the point.

Mc­Call, for all his high­minded talk, seems to take a lit­tle too much sick glee in all the blood-let­ting he en­gages in. When he an­nounces to his in­tended vic­tims that he’s “go­ing to kill each and ev­ery one of you”, his mo­ti­va­tion sounds as much like sadism as so­cial con­scious­ness. “The only dis­ap­point­ment,” Mc­Call tells them, “is that I only get to do it once.” For our part, that dis­ap­point­ment is short-lived. All we have to do is wait for The Equalizer 3. – Wash­ing­ton Post

AVENG­ING AN­GEL: Denzel Wash­ing­ton as Robert Mc­Call in Equaliser 2.

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