The first Equalizer was a bit of a pleasant surprise. A stylish, well-presented pleasant surprise at that. Reuniting Denzel Washington with Training Day director, Antoine Fuqua it was a stylish take on the well-used vigilante revenge thriller, it was a good example of using a generic premise and giving it a twist to make it seem relevant, even if not entirely original.
A few years on, and Denzel is back for more, is this a sequel of diminishing returns? Or will it use the originals momentum to build on?
Robert McCall has moved on since his reign of vigilante justice, now living in Massachusetts and working as a Lyft driver, and helping out the less fortunate when he can. He is pulled back into the vigilante life after the murder of a friend as a conspiracy unfolds.
I watched this film a few days after watching the first, having missed it the first time round, and as stated in the opening paragraphs, it was a surprise. It’s visual-style and direction were, on occasion, breathtaking and it was a breath of fresh air when compared to usual action film fare.
A good sequel to me should expand what was established first time round, so with Robert McCall established as a near-indestructible bad-ass, it would have been inadvisable to not expand the character and horizons, and Fuqua was way ahead of me, as McCall has gone from seeking revenge for a child prostitute to seeking revenge for a former FBI agent.
With that being said, let’s get the criticism out of the way. It’s a bit too happy to hop the plot around, from scene to scene we go from Robert’s house in Massachusetts (the most awkward place to spell) to Washington, and then to Brussels in Belgium, and of course there’s the stock footage of planes take off and land. Some of the location-hopping is necessary for the plot but the way it’s put together makes each scene seem to hop back and forth, it’s off-putting but not a deal-breaker.
However, despite the lack of focus on locations, but I have the feeling I’m going to recommend The Equalizer 2, yes the plot lacks a bit of focus, and the father-son demographic in the plot is somewhat forced and just seems token, but I really came to like the characters. Denzel is at his best here, his characters actions are much-more justified here, as the character he’s seeking revenge for is established as someone he has a long history with, as opposed to avenging a young girl who talks to him about books.
The film is visually-stunning however, opening with a well-choreographed and brutal fight scene on a train and climaxing with an incredible, tense cat-and-mouse chase set against the background of an ongoing storm, and with a sniper watching from a tower, upping the tension as Robert McCall goes about his usual business i.e. nailing people to walls. It also gave the film the reason to use falling rain as a visual pastiche again, as it worked so well the first time round.
The film also boasts a really well-worked twist towards the end that surprised me with its set-up and execution, so there’s another positive to its name. So it’s plot widened it’s focus to a much bigger stage, as well as upping the action set-pieces and maintaining it’s appealing visual direction that made the first one enjoyable.
In conclusion, The Equalizer 2 is a very enjoyable, and stylish, action yarn with a very strong lead performance from the as-usual charismatic Denzel Washington. Sure, it’s nothing new in the world of film, but it is a lot of fun while it lasts and a few of the set-pieces will stick with you, so you can’t really ask for more. It’s not going to win many awards, but that’s not the intention, if the intention was to create a well-directed, visually striking action film, then it more than achieves it.