Dan's Review: "The Equalizer 2" strays far away from its source
Jul 20, 2018 12:10AM
● By Dan Metcalf
Denzel Washington in The Equalizer 2- © 2018 Sony Pictures.
The Equalizer 2 (Sony Pictures)
Rated R for brutal violence throughout, language, and some drug content.
Starring Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, Orson Bean, Sakina Jaffrey, Jonathan Scarfe, Adam Karst.
Written by Richard Wenk, based on the TV series by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
Perhaps it’s inevitable that a good thing always deteriorates. So it is with film series that suffer from what I like to call “sequelitis” or the tendency overstay the original appeal that spawned the demand for follow-ups. For some file series, the second film is complimentary while the third installment usually experiences the steepest decline. Unfortunately, that decline can happen too soon. I really enjoyed the first Equalizer film in 2014. It was raw and true to its source material, a 1980s TV show about a secret agent-turned-vigilante, exacting justice for innocent victims whenever the proper channels fail. Denzel Washington was perfect for the role; a cool customer with a deadly conviction for justice.
Washington is back as Robert McCall a former CIA hitman presumed dead who lives in the heart of Boston, taking on hopeless cases for people who have nowhere else to turn. No longer a security guard, McCall spends his days as Lyft driver, picking and choosing his battles for the hopeless victims of violence and abuse. He also befriends a neighborhood teenager named Miles (Ashton Sanders) and does all he can to keep him from joining a street gang. When McCall’s oldest friend Susan (Melissa Leo), a current CIA boss is murdered in Belgium, McCall sets out to find her killers. His path leads to his old partner Dave (Pedro Pascal) who hides a dark secret. McCall must face some old friends who are now his enemies – without any collateral damage to the only friends he has left.
Washington’s portrayal as McCall is as seamless as the first film. He’s the perfect combination of altruism and badassery, and given the right dialogue, Denzel’s screen presence is always crowd-pleasing.
The trouble with The Equalizer 2 lies in a convoluted story that strays far away from the formula of a trained killer who stands up for the little guy. The plot drifts deeper into “deep state” fantasy, complete with “black ops” spy clichés and your garden-variety predictable action sequences. If I didn’t know any better, I could have been watching one of any number of forgettable spy thrillers.
It’s true that some sequels are weighted too heavily on the formula that made their predecessors so successful but there has to be a “sweet spot” or balance between becoming too formulaic and so far away that you lose the main attraction.
Not even the great Denzel can save such a movie from the scrapheap of sequels that killed their franchise. Your series isn’t supposed to start sucking until the third film. The Equalizer 2 jumped the gun on that trend, heading downhill a little faster than expected.