‘The Equalizer 2’ review: Overlong calm before the storm
The Equalizer, Antoine Fuqua’s 2014 reimagining of the late 80's TV show about a retired secret agent who uses his special skills, training, and remaining government resources to help the masses, is a peculiar actioner.
Sequels and copycats
In some sense, in a market that was thirsting for actioners centering on seemingly regular middle-agers turning out to be experts in exacting vengeance like Taken (2008), its sequels and copycats, the existence of Fuqua’s film is a no-brainer.
However, The Equalizer is ostensibly a lot moodier than the Taken films, with Robert McCall, its hero played by Denzel Washington, not just playing the role of the covert protector of his neighborhood’s poor and oppressed but also an ingrained member of the working class.
It can be said that Fuqua’s film is fueled not just by its elaborate and often very violent action set-pieces but also by an aspiration to be more representative of a more diverse America. Its hero is less motivated by personal trauma and more by a desire to correct the blatant wrongs of everything around him. The film pits the genre elements it follows with a portrayal of a community that often allows itself to be abused.
It isn’t therefore surprising that a sequel was made.
Fuqua’s film isn’t just a Taken clone. It possesses genuinely unique traits to mold an entire franchise. Moreover, Washington simply plays the hero with tremendous amounts of gravitas, making every turn from him being a regular member of the community into a righteous but decisive killer feel more audacious than before.
It also helps that The Equalizer doesn’t crowd itself with endless gunfights, fistfights, and other forms of violence. It takes its time. It is deliberate. It knows fully well that Washington is more gifted as a thespian than a physical actor, so it spends more time with him intimidating with his stance and his words before allowing him to quickly burst into action.
More of the same
The Equalizer 2 is pretty much more of the same.
This time, Robert McCall works as a Lyft driver, allowing the film a more intimate glimpse of the pulse of the community. From McCall’s driver’s seat, the audience is allowed to overhear conversations that would add to the overall ambition of the franchise to approximate the present sentiment of America.
Every now and then, McCall steps out of his role as a driver to get into the lives of his passengers, giving an unsolicited gesture of encouragement to a young soldier who is off to Iraq or in a more extreme instance, beating up coke-sniffing yuppies who made the mistake of hiring him to drive a lady they mishandled home.
Strangely, The Equalizer 2 opens with a disguised McCall on a train to Turkey. It almost seems like Fuqua has no intention for set-ups, since right out of the bat, the film indulges in an audacious action set-piece where the hero gets involved in a brawl. However, this sequel actually spends more time than the first film in surveying McCall’s new world. After the prologue, the film retreats to normalcy, with just a few spurts of extreme violence happening once in a while.
It almost seems like the film has no intention of bridging a plot. It seems mostly content in peppering the details of McCall’s life. He befriends a young artist (Ashton Sanders) who is being recruited by a local gang. He regularly has dinner with a former co-worker (Melissa Leo). Given its preoccupation with McCall’s seemingly normal life, The Equalizer 2 tends to teeter towards dullness, with only Washington’s commanding performance keeping the promise of something truly exciting alive.
Slowly but surely, the pieces come together, shaping what would be a climax involving McCall, several armed men, an evacuated town, and a raging hurricane.
The Equalizer 2 is an even more peculiar actioner than its predecessor. It begs for patience before unleashing a whirlpool of brutality.
The gap between the quiet moments where the film simply has its hero enjoy his time working like the rest of the world and the outrageous sequences where he murders his enemies with astounding precision is immense to the point of being foolhardy.
The risks the film takes do not result in memorable delights, but at least this sequel didn’t bow down to the convenience of being generic. – Rappler.com