The film continues the story of Robert McCall (Denzel Washington), a former member of a secret agency who now drives an Uber while secretly helping those in need with his badass skills. Things seem to be going decently well for McCall, who grooms a young man who lives in the same building as him to become a successful artist. But when McCall’s friend from the agency is killed on assignment, McCall is forced to dive into the fray. And this time, IT’S PERSONAL.
One of the only elements from the OG Equalizer film that I actually liked was the characterization of McCall. In that film, he was a likeable and kindhearted man who avoided violence at all costs, only getting involved when it helped an innocent person in danger. This made the badass nature of Washington when the shit hit the fan work, because it directly contradicted how his character was in day-to-day life.
The Equalizer 2 completely fails to do any of this. Washington and Fuqua seem to have either completely forgotten McCall from the first film or misunderstood what people liked about him. The McCall of Equalizer 2 is trapped in the badass mode, leaving the endearing moments feeling rigid. There is a scene where McCall saves his young friend from joining a street gang that feels insanely mishandled. Washington comes off more stand-offish and abusive compared to his fatherly personality in the original. Maybe this was intended as a character adapting, but that requires some level of effort to make me understand why he’s changing.
And then there’s the action. Equalizer 2 thinks it’s John Wick, but it’s missing two fundamental elements. One: McCall can’t get hurt. There are no scenes in which McCall seems to be in any kind of real danger, which negates any of the possible tension in the movie’s brutally violent action sequences. Two: the choreography and cinematography are both mediocre, blinding the audience to the majority of the action. These two elements combined defuse any enjoyment of the action by the time we’ve hit the 20 minute mark.
It also took a solid half an hour for me to realize what the plot of the movie was going to be. The film takes so long to get to the actual driving dramatic force. And not in a cool Marin Scorsese “we’re gonna get to know these characters and their world” kind of way. It’s more like a “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if Denzel did these things that we can’t fit into the narrative structure of the film so we’ll just shove it in at the beginning” kind of way. Once the plot finally actually starts to kick in, its utter predictability makes for a yawn-inducing experience at the movies.
Equalizer 2 puts all of its bets on two things: Denzel Washington’s performance and violent action. And usually, that’s not bad call. But neither of things actually work in the film. The action is sloppy and repetitive and Washington’s performance is radically off from his usual charm. What results is possibly my least favorite movie from a director I already didn’t like.