“The Equalizer 2” (2018)
Running Time: 129 minutes
Written by: Richard Wenk
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Featuring: Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Melissa Leo, and Bill Pullman
Robert McCall: “They killed my friend. So I’m going to kill each and every one of them. And the only disappointment is that I only get to do it once.”
After four years star Denzel Washington reteams with director Antoine Fuqua for the sequel to the box office as well as mostly critical hit “The Equalizer” (2014) that itself was a reimagining of a 1980s television show to the big screen. It was also an origin story of sorts that, as most origin stories are, very easy to set up as well as pay off which is what made it so appealing for audiences, that and star Denzel Washington. It seems at this stage in his career Denzel Washington is that rare breed of actor who can pretty much do anything, he has accomplished so much that even at his age he makes an excellent action star because he makes his characters believable, rooted in something real so that we can all see his point of view, this is no more true than his characterisation of Robert McCall as a man who sees injustice, feeling the deep need to want to right it where he can, either through diplomacy or as a last resort, violence. At this stage of his career Washington can see the importance of balancing films he wants to make for himself, even directing wise, then keeping himself relevant with movies like “The Equalizer 2” (2018) which have something to say on a personal level, it also helps that he can open a movie in the US reliably so there is little worry about getting them greenlit. Not only did the “The Equalizer 2” have a great opening weekend, it outdid the original which is something rare for a straight genre movie especially when similarly themed ones bomb outright. This is the most unusual of action movies with a cast that are all older but aged similarly dealing with issues that most can relate to as well as having a combination of thrills, action and violence, this movie succeeds at accomplishing what it set out to do, being an able bodied sequel that ups the ante, possibly leading to a third sometime in the future.
Returning to this sequel are original writer Richard Wenk and director Antoine Fuqua who both know what they want to accomplish, executing like the experienced duo they have become in terms of genre movie making. This is Fuqua’s fourth time directing Washington, it shows with how he frames and works with him within the narrative, which is something that Washington obviously enjoys. Fuqua is definitely known for directing action movies as well as being the person that directed Washington to his second Oscar for “Training Day” (2001). In terms of this story Wenk has actually constructed a very tight plot with a narrative that is conventional, it has a strong A story with a nice subplot involving McCall’s neighbourhood in particular a young artist that is struggling with his own life that eventually joins up to the main plot. The fact is that there is almost too much plot with another minor subplot involving an elderly man and the trouble he is having with some art that links back to World War II – this is an element that could have been ejected but it does add to how McCall operates within a number of different issues that he assists people with. This is a mostly successful movie that operates on a number of levels that works because Washington, Wenk and Fuqua know exactly what they are doing and how to execute it for a large audience.
The movie once again centres on Robert McCall who learns that one of his longtime friends, Susan Plummer, has been murdered. McCall decides to return to his old ways and seek out, find and punish the perpetrators.
As with any action movie that revolves around one main character it is the casting of that role that is most important and here we have one of the greatest and talented leading men of all time in Denzel Washington who by now knows exactly what movie he is and how to deliver to the camera for maximum effect. The partnership that Washington has formed with Fuqua echoes the same relationships he has had with Spike Lee, Ridley Scott, Tony Scott and to a lessor extent Norman Jewison, with all of them serving very different purposes, it does appear to me though that this latest one has been the most fun, considering they were able to make the Western “The Magnificent Seven” (2015) with such a large budget in a genre many consider to be dead. Along for the ride in “The Equalizer 2” and returning are Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo who in their short amount of screen time really underpin the emotional beats that drive the main plot of the movie. The main addition to the cast is the always-excellent Pedro Pascal who in a different world would be a leading man but has continually taken supporting roles in major movies to really take the pressure of himself but always standing out in any cast. Here he plays American as well as a duplicitous role that he carries of with ease much like he has throughout his career. It is no easy task matching Washington in terms of telent but Pascal does here by knowing exactly how to judge his performance so that he is almost Washington’s equal onscreen with only a few false notes.
Whilst the first movie was definitely set in small location as well as setting up McCall’s morality this new instalment makes the story bigger both in terms of scale, location, number of characters and then stakes set up for all involved. By delving into McCall’s past it also makes the movie even more personal that the first, which is strength as it means the audience, is almost immediately on his side. This movie also seems to be setting up McCall as an older spy type not unlike any other similar genre character without it is undeniable that he is a Ronin archetype a masterless Samurai who wants to be left alone but is unable to just stand by while injustice is carried out especially when it is all around him. It can be said that id he really wanted a quiet life or to be left alone he could do this by isolating himself which he never does, not in either movie so it could be said he does bring much of the issues within both movies on himself.
“The Equalizer 2” is a rare thing in today’s cinematic landscape a truly successful R-Rated action movie that is loaded with A-list talent both in front of as well as behind the camera that works extremely well on many levels. If you are looking for an action movie with a difference then this is for you especially if you are a fan of Denzel Washington and at this stage I believe everyone is, he has built a character from the ground up and he is only getting better with age, I cannot wait foe the next instalment.