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The Equalizer 2 - Review

The Equalizer 2

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

AS AN actor, Denzel Washington currently has 56 credits to his name. But none have been sequels… until now.

And while The Equalizer 2 may not seem like an obvious choice to change that habit, it’s perhaps the only film on his CV that really lends itself to one. After all, Washington is playing the kind of character for whom multiple adventures would seem only natural.

He is an ageing action hero. He has a particular set of skills. He helps people. So, why not? Washington himself once joked [at a press conference for Man on Fire] that he envied Matt Damon for landing the Bourne franchise. So, perhaps he was just biding his time…

Alas, The Equalizer is nowhere near the calibre of the Bourne franchise. But two films in and it’s already better than Taken, which shone brightly and faded all too quickly.

The first film really established the central character of Robert McCall, a former black ops commando who faked his death to live a quiet life in Boston (as a DIY store attendant), only to find himself being called into action to help various colleagues in need as well as rescue a young girl from the grubby clutches of the Russian Mob. It was a highly competent thriller, anchored by another top drawer performance from Washington.

Second time around, the McCall character is given more room to stretch his legs and exercise his skill set. And while the law of diminishing returns certainly prevails, it’s still a delight watching Washington do his thing.

The stakes, this time, are also more personal. A former colleague, who remains a close friend, is killed which prompts McCall to re-enter the world of black ops soldiers to dish out some revenge. And if that sounds generic for this kind of thing, it is.

But returning director Antoine Fuqua – working with Washington for a fourth time after Training Day, The Magnificent Seven and the first film – ensures the action is suitably muscular and that plenty of room is left for Washington to work his magic as an actor.

Indeed, one of the better surprises surrounding The Equalizer 2 is just how much acting Washington is allowed to do given that early trailers suggested a much more mean-spirited, action-driven film that had little to differentiate it from the Death Wish films [old and new].

The Equalizer 2

Rather, early scenes allow Washington to showcase McCall’s new existence as a taxi driver, capable of helping anyone who comes into harm’s way, but equally capable of listening and indulging in acts of kindness. He then takes on a pet project in the form of a young boy who is talented as an artist but who has fallen in with the wrong crowd. The scenes between Washington and Ashton Sanders work particularly well.

But once his former colleague is killed, the movie shifts focus to revenge. And even then, Fuqua affords Washington some strong play-mates, with Pedro Pascal’s villain a particularly worthy opponent.

It’s down to the hard work of the cast as a whole that The Equalizer 2 works as well as it does, given the fairly workmanlike nature of the screenplay. But therein lies its central appeal. Washington elevates the material and raises the game of everyone around him.

The Equalizer 2 is a guilty pleasure – a by-the-numbers sequel given extra impetus by the presence of one of Hollywood’s finest leading men.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 2hrs 1min
UK Release Date: August 17, 2018