“I expect a 5-star rating,” says Denzel Washington’s Robert McCall as he breaks the fingers of a edgy ‘client’ during the opening minutes of The Equalizer 2.
The sequel is an impressive follow-up to 2014’s The Equalizer, which is an origin story of some sort, that established the former marine and intelligence operative’s drive and garnered a lot of favourable reception.
In between both movies, after using his skill set to liberate a teenage prostitute from the Russian Mafia, McCall has transformed from working at a hardware store to working as a Lyft driver.
Armed with his resolve at the end of the first movie to use his skills to help people, he also doubles as a guardian angel to strangers in need whom he anonymously helps with the end of his fists and his now iconic stopwatch.
One of The Equalizer 2’s great points is that it has loads of more fun than the first one. Washington’s McCall transitions seamlessly between being a bone-crunching menace and wisecracking joker with assumed ease.
His superpower is his charm and calm demeanor which quite easily disarms and terrifies his adversaries in equal measure. It’s how he can seriously threaten to kill four dangerous men to their faces and then play with one of their kids the next minute. Washington sells this with his magnetic personality despite the world-weary experiences of his character.
The movie leverages on McCall’s relationships to arm him with a motive to do whatever he’s doing at any point. The people he helps, he does because of his promise to his dead wife to fashion a better life for himself and make the world a better place than it is.
The first act of the movie establishes his relationship with Sam Rubinstein (Orson Bean), an elderly Holocaust survivor, Fatima (Sakina Jaffrey), a homely neighbour, and Miles Whittaker (Ashton Sanders), a young troubled neighbour whom he takes special interest in.
With these relationships, the movie explores McCall’s tender nature and his shining compassion for the people he cares about.
However, when his friend and former colleague is killed in what is supposed to be an apparent robbery, the monster is unleashed and the man you want to see finally joins the party in full vigilante mode.
McCall is forced to reconnect with old friends as well as cut off old ties in the most violent ways possible and it makes for some truly terrific action sequences.
What’s great about The Equalizer 2’s action sequences, especially the final showdown, is how it sacrifices instant gratification for a more patient suspenseful approach, just like the first movie, only better.
Forced to return to familiar territories, McCall uses his knowledge of the terrain to terrify his adversaries before sending them to their inevitable ends and it is satisfying to watch. The movie excels with its efficient deployment of bubbling tension which builds slowly and steadily before the hammer drops for some terrific comeuppance for the bad guys.
The director, Antoine Fuqua, stages the final showdown in a hurricane-ravaged beach town where McCall cuts down the antagonists in really gruesome, nerve-racking ways. You know what the destination is, but McCall, with Fuqua’s stellar direction, makes the journey such a bloody thrilling ride.
The Equalizer 2 is not particularly memorable, especially with pacing issues and trouble with transitioning from one subplot to the other, but it delivers on the sweet thrilling spectacle that only the electric Uncle Washington can serve.
For all of its good intentions, the movie could have been shorter than its long 121 minutes runtime if certain subplots ended up on the cutting room floor, but if McCall wants a 5-star rating, that’s absolutely what he gets (even if The Equalizer 2 doesn’t come quite close).