THE EQUALIZER 2
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Screenwriter: Richard Wenk, based on the TV series by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim
Runtime: 121 mins.
Australian release date: 19 July 2018
Previewed at: Event Cinemas, George Street, Sydney, on 18 July 2018.
You know it’s wrong but it feels so right. Yes, Robert McCall (Denzel Washington), the vigilante ex-CIA black ops operative is back in The Equalizer 2 and he’s in magnificent form. A number of the crew involved in 2014’s The Equalizer, from both behind and in front of the camera, are reunited for this outing: most importantly the African-American director Antoine Fuqua returns, along with writer Richard Wenk, plus actors Melissa Leo and Bill Pullman. This is the fourth time that Fuqua and Washington have worked together and they’re obviously at ease with each other’s style, having first collaborated on the terrific Training Day in 2001, then, after a lengthy hiatus, in just four years they made The Equalizer, The Magnificent Seven and now this. These guys are on a roll!
An off-the-grid avenging angel, McCall is still doing good works that largely involves killing bad dudes. This time around he’s gets caught up tracking down a group of hit-men for hire when his old friend Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) brings him the case of a murdered couple who were killed in Brussels and she reveals that the husband was working undercover for US intelligence. McCall lives in Boston and leads an ostensibly quiet life driving a private taxi. As an aside, the script features a wonderful series of vignettes about the various people who hop into his cab, some of whom he anonymously helps, having overheard or figured out their problem. One of these tales is expanded upon throughout the film and it involves Sam (Orson Bean), a regular elderly passenger and Holocaust survivor who’s convinced his long-missing sister is still alive. Another key character is a young black neighbour Miles (Ashton Sanders), who McCall takes under his wing when he sees the kid falling in with a bad crowd. These and other tributaries keep flowing into or alongside the main river of the plot. They’re clever and they all reveal a little more about the life of our enigmatic hero, who seems to be somewhere on the autism spectrum because he exhibits a range of tics and unusual habits.
Fuqua is highly proficient with this type of material, which needs a gentle hand coupled with the ability to cover fight scenes well. Veteran British director of photography Oliver Wood is an asset because he has a proven track record with the almost balletic action scenes on display, having shot three of The Bourne… films. McCall does a lot of brooding and scheming before exploding into violent action and Washington’s at the top of his game here. Wenk’s script is never dull, especially during the quiet scenes, because McCall is like a coiled spring and Washington conveys his sense of watchful presence so well. Young actor Sanders is also very strong as the troubled but thoughtful boy from the ‘hood who becomes more and more surprised by the actions of his mentor and saviour.
This a moral tale in many ways, if you’re prepared to overlook the fact that McCall isn’t troubled by legal niceties; he’s judge, jury and executioner, but at least he operates by an ethical code of conduct that leaves you in no doubt that he’s doing the right thing - the baddies are really bad. Sometimes it’s tempting to wish that there really is someone like him out there, looking after the common man, righting wrongs that often go unpunished. One could describe The Equalizer 2 as an enjoyable, violent exercise in wishful thinking.