THE EQUAL­IZER 2

★★★

Empire (UK) - - ON.SCREEN - CHRIS HE­WITT

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.

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