THE EQUALIZER 2
OUT 17 AUGUST CERT TBC / 121 MINS
DIRECTOR Antoine Fuqua
CAST Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Melissa Leo, Bill Pullman
PLOT Now living in Boston, Robert Mccall (Washington) is whiling away his days as a cab driver. Then, when a traumatic event affects an old friend from the CIA, he’s drawn back into a shadowy world of black ops soldiers and a quest for vengeance.
BELIEVE IT OR not, Denzel Washington has never made a sequel. Inside Man never led to Inside Men. Training Day, for obvious reasons, didn’t make it beyond graduation. And, despite appearances to the contrary, The Taking Of Pelham 123 was not a follow-up to the previous 122 films in the Pelham series.
Until, as they say, now. At first glance, The Equalizer, Washington’s big-screen version of the beloved Edward Woodward ’80s TV show, may seem a strange choice of project with which to pop his franchise cherry. But it makes perfect sense. Robert Mccall, his retired black ops veteran, the sort of man who can kill you with a credit card, is the perfect vessel to peg a series on. At the end of the first movie, he became more recognisably the Mccall of the TV show, a mercenary for hire, available to right wrongs for those whose wrongs have remained resolutely unrighted. And it’s that Mccall we pick up with this time around, taking out a group of bad guys on a train bound for Turkey in a neat, efficient, brutal credits re-establisher.
Then, we head back to the States, where Mccall has set up a quiet life for himself in a tenement building. He becomes attached to a young man (Sanders) who has a gift with a paintbrush, but may be heading for a life of crime. He also keeps himself busy as a Lyft driver, which allows the film to introduce a posse of potential clients/punching bags. These early scenes, in which Antoine Fuqua — working with Washington for the fourth time, following Training Day, The Magnificent Seven, and the first Equalizer — cuts back and forth between Mccall’s interactions with different passengers, are a joy, Washington breathing warmth into a character that might otherwise be lost in his self-imposed isolation.
Then, as it must, the plot kicks in, and things become more generic. This is the kind of movie where people die exactly when you expect them to, characters get kidnapped exactly when the plot requires it, and hidden agendas are revealed right on cue. But when you’re in the hands of old stagers like Fuqua, writer Richard Wenk and Washington, even the predictable can elicit pleasure. The law of diminishing returns is in play, especially in a stormtossed climax that doesn’t come close to the kill-crazy hardware store antics of the original, but it’s still fun to see Denzel kicking all kinds of ass at the ripe old age of 60. Very few actors can make lines like, “I’m going to kill each and every one of you, and the only disappointment is I only get to do it once,” work, but Washington can without breaking a sweat. If this doesn’t lead to his first threequel, we’d be more than happy to watch a TV show starring Mccall. What a novel idea.
VERDICT This hard-edged action thriller may not match the original, but Washington’s Mccall is a compelling character, the kind you’d quite happily like to hang out with whether he’s busting heads or painting walls.
Not for Denzel, boring old straight shooting.