Based on a TV series in the mid-1980s and released in 2014, director’s Antoine Fuqua’s The Equalizer is perhaps the best-ever punisher movie that will ever be made. Denzel Washington took the role of Robert McCall, who is a righteous vigilante who boasts a talent for violent killing and yet has an impeccable sense of righteousness. He works blue collar jobs quietly, spends his time eating in modest diners and at his wife’s behest, he is slowly working through the Western Canon’s 100 best books. As a matter of fact, Robert McCall even has a gimmick to his name. What is it?
When he is charging into a room full of a large number of Russian scumbags and pimps in order to do damage to them, he uses a stopwatch to time himself as if he is trying to break his own record. Put simply, Robert McCall is no less than a superhero straight out of a comic book. Therefore, it is not that difficult to see why Fuqua as well as Washington would want to make a sequel of the movie in the form of The Equalizer 2. It is also the first time that either of them has chosen to reprise a character or made a character. It must be fun to play a character like Robert McCall.
Plus, the character gives both the actor and the director to present a heroic vigilante with a combination of actual moral indignation as well as thrilling violence. Certainly, he is a delight to watch, at least modestly and in fits, as there are some amazing self-contained moments in the Equalizer 2. We get to see some great scenes from McCall in the capacity of a civic-minded activist as well as in the capacity of fight/action. Indeed, it seems that the director was so excited to see McCall return to action that he is introduced twice in The Equalizer 2.
First, he is riding a Turkish train where he is using well-placed fists and spinning kicks to take out some high-level gangsters. His second introduction is made when is beating a bunch of men in a Boston high-rise because they mistreated a woman. While the movie on a whole doesn’t need to establish McCall’s cred as a badass for the second time, it is nevertheless quite fun to see an arrogant and rich brat, who is probably called Brett or something, getting sliced in the neck by his own sharp platinum card.
When McCall is not busy beating people who deserve it, he is working as a Lyft driver and holding conversations with the local people. This is an upgrade from Home Depot in the last movie and allows him to interact with all kinds of people as he is driving them. We can see him reading the 100th book in his challenge; Search of Lost Time: The Regained by Marcel Proust or he is busy wiping off the graffiti off of his apartment building in Boston. We also see Robert McCall reaching out to an at-risk teenager named Miles (Moonlight’s Ashton Sanders) who is teetering between the life as a criminal and a life at art school. Late in the film, he even gets the opportunity to give Miles a speech.
He speaks to him about the importance of making the right decisions and also the power of character. As expected from Denzel Washington, his action is spectacular and it creates an intense and touching moment that has modern, salient morality and surprising depth. Nonetheless, as a whole, the Equalizer 2 is only going through the motions. A lot of movies by Fuqua boast a consistent aesthetic, which is rather unfortunate, and this movie suffers from the same. For all its touch of general righteousness, great acting from Washington and the wonderful fights, the Equalizer 2 comes off as rather flimsy. The film has a running time of 121 minutes and the plot remains unfocused for most of the duration. The characters that are introduced early in the movie are forgotten for long spans; Bill Pullman was introduced in the beginning, but didn’t show up again 40 minutes later.
There are some notable deaths and some brutal and aggressive violence in the form of messy stabbings, messy headshots and even a harpoon in the face, but the overall action in the Equalizer 2 is delivered rather haphazardly. It shows up at random points, which is to say that just when the movie should be ramping up the action, it decides to stop for taking a long breath. However, one of the biggest issues with the movie is that the villain, when revealed eventually, is as generic as they come. Their motivation seems boring, their speeches are not novel or moving and the actor playing the role is simply unable to deliver any note of sinister power or threat. In a nutshell, the villain is really, really dull.
Luckily, the strength of character that McCall has, which is shouldered rather exceptionally by Washington, makes up for a lot of weaknesses in the Equalizer 2. There is no denying that he is one of the greatest of all actors and his work helps in elevating the movie ever so slightly that it goes from being a nondescript summer thriller into something you can actually watch. The movie presents a badass, violent superhero who cares more about the community as a whole rather than punching the bad guys. This comes off as a nice change of pace in some way. It is solely due to this fact that another movie wouldn’t be unwelcome if Washington and Fuqua decide to revisit McCall again.
Thus, even though the conventional storytelling of The Equalizer 2 is certainly weak and the violence may seem somewhat too brutal to some people, it is not a total waste. As a matter of fact, Fuqua and Denzel Washington have created a unique vigilante character who is Punisher-at-heart, which makes it a moderate delight to revisit and is definitely somewhat thrilling to watch.