I went to watch The Equalizer 2 thanks to the benefits of the AMC Stubs A-List program because I wanted to get a “free” movie in last week to keep my weekly movie watching streak alive. I had never seen the original, so I had zero expectations as to what I was in for, but I quickly realized a few minutes in to my screening that I was going to be in for a treat. I mean outside of Denzel Washington looking about 30 pounds overweight — I’m not fat shaming, but for a dude who is essentially a walking weapon of mass destruction he does look way out-of-shape — this movie kicks ass on all levels. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I bought the original from iTunes the day after to see why this franchise got a sequel in the first place. And you know what, after watching the original I ended up finding the sequel to be the better of the two, so yeah, it’s pretty damn entertaining.
If you’re unfamiliar with the world of The Equalizer, Denzel Washington plays Robert McCall, who is essentially an old John Wick, but unlike Wick he isn’t a hitman, rather he’s a former government operative. He’s a good guy per se, but one who levies beatings as if he were an assassin looking to make very bold statements. He’s a man who believes in standing up for the weak, but one who isn’t above a little good old fashioned revenge.
In this sequel he starts out as a vigilante of sorts by helping those in his Boston neighborhood by laying brutal beatdowns on those he deems to be in the wrong. He’s essentially Batman, but doesn’t wear a cape and cowl, and he doesn’t have the same moral code about murder. After a former friend of his gets taken out in a mysterious hit, his drive to exact revenge sends him on an epic quest of discovery, betrayal, and ultimately a string of violent interactions with those who have crossed him and those he cares about.
While the plot is mysterious and compelling enough to compliment the action, its twist is highly predictable, and its climax is also expected, but there’s still plenty of tension as you watch the full narrative play out. There are some great story beats that aren’t action-oriented, although the action sequences are definitely the highlights of the overall package. Denzel surprisingly enough sells the emotional interactions he has with a young black man whom he is mentoring, as well as the intense action scenes. I wasn’t surprised by his expert delivery of his lines and the emotions woven into them while trying to teach a young black man in peril of going the gang route how to be a real man — I mean he’s Denzel after all — but I was surprised at how believable he was as an unstoppable badass considering his age. I still think he looked too out-of-shape for the character he was playing, but with Hollywood magic and a great stunt team, he does come off as believable during his many brutal interactions with those who did him, or someone he cared about wrong.
When it comes down to it though, The Equalizer 2 is a damn fine action flick regardless of the star not looking like he could actually pull off the physical feats that the character executes in the movie. Let’s just say that due to other factors such as his top-notch acting chops, as well as a solid supporting cast that adds an emotional element to the frenzied action, you never really question if an older gentlemen could channel his inner John Wick to become an unstoppable killing machine. To me, Robert McCall is now up there with other action franchise badasses like Die Hard’s John McClain, or Mission Impossible’s Ethan Hunt, albeit with a much darker and brutal edge. McCall is a bad, bad man, but in a good way, at least if you’re not a shady person that crosses him or those he feels the need to mentor and protect.
If you enjoyed The Equalizer, you will love the sequel. In fact, I expect that you too will find it to be slightly better than the original. I chalk this revelation up to pacing, because I believe the sequel maintains a better balance between the action heavy scenes and the dialogue heavy scenes meant to progress the narrative. It just flows better, and I also believe the supporting cast is much more entertaining. For example, Ashton Sanders kills it as Miles, who is a young artist trapped between a dream of pursuing his passion, and the dangers of living in the hood and the allure of being in a gang. To me this character is a much more engaging supporting character than the Ralphie character McCall mentored in the original. There’s some really great real life messages that get played out between McCall and Miles, so their relationship was much more powerful than what was showcased between McCall and Ralphie.
I highly recommended checking out this sequel in theaters. It has fantastic action sequences, brilliant acting, and while the overall narrative is predictable, it’s still intriguing enough to keep you highly engaged between the over-the-top action beats and the more toned down emotional moments. Denzel may be getting older and is a bit overweight for the type of character he plays in this movie, but none of that matters thanks to the precise execution by everyone from the Director to the background cast. I’m definitely an Equalizer superfan now, and wouldn’t mind this experiment continuing into a third entry.
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