Main cast: Denzel Washington (Robert McCall), Pedro Pascal (Dave York), Ashton Sanders (Miles Whittaker), Sakina Jaffrey (Fatima), Jonathan Scarfe (Resnik), Kazy Tauginas (Ari), Garrett Golden (Kovac), Orson Bean (Sam Rubinstein), Bill Pullman (Brian Plummer), and Melissa Leo (Susan Plummer)
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Since the events in The Equalizer, the movie version of Robert McCall (not to confused with the TV version, of course) has moved on to a new neighborhood. If you have watched the previous movie, you may recall that he was a former assassin working for some super covert US agency. Then his wife died, and since then, he’d taken menial jobs and generally laying low while living a quiet, cultured life in which he reads and preaches to the people around him about how life is a plot in a Ta-Nehisi Coates book.
Now, however, he takes a more active role in helping the people in his new neighborhood. Which is to say, he murders people – the bad ones, of course. He is a Lyft driver, and if he realizes that his passenger had been wronged in any way, those who wronged him will be, on a good day, killed quickly. Also, he helps his friend Susan Plummer, a retired officer of the Defense Intelligence Agency, in doing some odd gigs like collecting the daughter of an American whose Turkish ex-husband had kidnapped as payback on losing the custody battle. Naturally, he murders the ex-husband and his gangster goons in the process. Not that this is a bad thing – seeing Denzel Washington committing righteous homicide is a revelation, a sexy kind of religious experience that has me going hallelujah in all the right ways.
The Equalizer 2 takes a while to get moving. For a plodding while, we see Robert befriending and trying to keep the high school kid Miles Whittaker – no, that’s not the black Spider-Man, that’s a different Miles – from getting involved in street gangs. This whole angle seems to be an excuse for Mr Washington, also a co-producer of this movie – to include the same message that had some of the crazier identity politics zealots all riled up a while back: black folks in America may not be on an equal footing when it comes to economic and social opportunities, but this shouldn’t be an excuse for black people to give up and get involved in gang activities; instead, black kids on the streets to seize any opportunity and use the talents God gave them to better themselves in honest, legitimate ways. It’s a nice message, in my opinion, reinforced by the fact that Robert’s own “street gang” past will come back with a vengeance and poor Miles will discover what it’s like to tangle with genuine homicidal psychopaths soon enough.
The fun comes when Susan is killed in what seems like a robbery, while investigating the death of a former DIA contact, who was living in Brussels before he apparently shot his wife and then committed suicide. Robert is the most awesome fellow on Earth, remember, so only he can discover what others fail to do, by merely running data he copied from the security cameras of the hotel on his laptop and scowling at the screen – Susan is murdered by professionals in a premeditated manner. He gets in touch with Dave York, his former assassin buddy who is now a DIA agent, and vows to – what else? – murder the hell out of the people responsible for his dear friend’s murder.
Seriously, the best and only reason to watch this movie is Mr Washington doing all kinds of gun-fu and kung-fu. There needs to be a Robert McCall and John Wick crossover right away so that the world can be a better place. The choreography is pure murder ballet, and even better, the camerawork is such that those scenes can be savored without too many frenetic edits or darkened lighting.
On the down side, this movie doesn’t have much going for it aside from the delicious sexy-violent moments. There is no progression of Robert’s character arc, he’s the same guy as before, and there isn’t any suspense either, as it is easy to spot the person behind Susan’s murder and the movie doesn’t bother to keep that fellow’s identity hidden for too long. The plot is helium in terms of lightness, as it’s just an excuse for the murder party to take place.
Normally, this isn’t a bad thing (the John Wick movies, anyone?) but The Equalizer 2 doesn’t offer enough to make up for its deficiencies. Once again, there is no villain worthy of someone of McCall’s near-omnipotent capabilities, so it’s just seeing him take down his opponents like a professional boxer slugging teenage boys in the ring. The final kill on the big bad is truly a work of beauty, but I wish the big bad had put up a better fight. Also, the body count is disappointingly low for a movie with such a thin plot and minimal characterization, and there isn’t enough over the top elements to make up for these anemic flaws.
Oh, and Pedro Pascal has gotten rid of his mustache here, so his sexiness is immediately down by 50%.
I love the violence in this movie, but at the end of the day, there isn’t much of anything else about this movie that is worth remembering or savoring. Save this one for a rainy afternoon instead of dashing out of your way to watch it in the big screen.