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26 Jul 2018

Denzel + Booms = Yay! 'Equalizer 2' Is Unoriginal, but It Sure Is a Lot of Fun

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Denzel Washington and Ashton Sanders in Equalizer 2. Denzel Washington and Ashton Sanders in Equalizer 2.

In a summer of endless sequels, Equalizer 2 has the distinction of being both unoriginal and predictable. Yes, it stimulates that part of your brain that likes to see things go boom and bad guys get pummeled—but the part of your brain that likes to solve things and seeks intellectual depth will take a nap during this film.

However … Equalizer 2 also has a guy named Denzel Washington in it, supplying his every line with grace and punching up the quality of a rote script simply by being onscreen. He and director Antoine Fuqua team up once again and make this sequel to a cinematic update of an OK TV show worth your time. It’s fast food … but it’s good fast food.

Washington returns as Robert McCall, a former special-ops guy with a taste for vigilantism and tea. He’s just sort of hanging out in Boston, working as a Lyft driver and painting over graffiti at his apartment complex, when word comes in that a good friend has bit the dust at the hands of mystery killers. Robert does not like it when you kill his friends. In fact, it’s fair to say Robert will do bad things to you for such acts.

He goes on a search for the killer/killers … and you will probably figure out who the bad people are fairly quickly. Equalizer 2 isn’t worried about tricking you with mysteries. It wants to set up scenarios for McCall’s vicious showdowns with bad folks—and Fuqua does this multiple times with bloody action gusto. Sequences include a dustup on a train in Turkey, with McCall in a full-bearded costume, calmly drinking his tea before dispatching multiple attackers in the most improbable yet badass way. (Does the teapot become a weapon? Why, yes, yes it does!) There’s also a shootout in a hurricane, reminiscent of Harrison Ford’s showdown at the end of Patriot Games. Fuqua makes them all pop in a way that improves upon his work in the first film.

This time out, McCall comes off as a combination of Michael Myers and the Batman. He’s almost supernatural in his abilities to disarm and dispatch his victims. It doesn’t matter how many guns, hammers and blades are coming at him—he’s going to win. There’s a lot of knife play in this movie, so if you have a hard time with cinematic stabbings, this one is not for you. It sometimes plays like a slasher film. Balancing out the nasty violence, Washington plays the role with as much finesse as he does in those Oscar-nominated efforts of his. He’s just so damned cool.

There are other people in this movie, like Melissa Leo, Pedro Pascal and Ashton Sanders (Moonlight). They all do serviceable work, but let’s face it: They all need to shut up and get out of the way so the almighty Washington can orate and kick ass. Many of the people in this film are just around to have their noses broken, necks twisted and fingers pulled apart.

There were a couple of plot threads that, quite honestly, could’ve been dropped, although McCall’s fatherly relationship to Sanders’ character is one of the better parts of the film. Sanders plays Miles, a wannabe art student who dabbles in gang activity. Washington and Sanders have some good screen time together.

Back when the first Equalizer came out, I openly asked for it to become a franchise. With this—Washington’s first participation in a sequel of any kind—I got my wish. It’s everything that garbage remake of Death Wish wanted to be. The way this one finishes … it feels like it could be the last. But there’s no need to stop.

The Equalizer 2 is playing at theaters across the valley.

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