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The 400-Word Review: The Equalizer 2

An unnecessary sequel to the Denzel Washington action flick arrives for a quick beat-em-up fix.

Photo © 2018 Sony Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

The Equalizer” is “Taken” with pretension.

Let us not pretend that Denzel Washington’s one or two moments of impassioned monologuing per film (nor the bits of social commentary) change that fact; once upon a time, Liam Neeson was a person with a particular set of skills, skills which could ruin a generic bad guy’s day and guarantee a healthy box-office return. Now, Denzel Washington would like similar paychecks.

It’s still fun enough, but don’t believe you’re getting anything more.

In “The Equalizer,” Robert McCall (Washington) was just trying to live a quiet, post-CIA-black-ops life. Chance encounters with a string of bad actors led him to become a working man’s vigilante, interfering (often lethally) for the little guy. Now, in “The Equalizer 2,” the global-dogooder business seems to be thriving, as indicated by a pre-credits sequence foiling a human-trafficking operation aboard a Turkish train. Soon thereafter, though, a former colleague (Melissa Leo) and close friend of McCall’s turns up dead while investigating a Parisian murder.

As you might imagine, this does not sit well with the titular Equalizer.

This adds a bit of a procedural element to things; McCall spends a long chunk of the movie figuring out what went down, before the third act builds to a suspenseful-ish throwdown at a conveniently isolated seaside town. (Actually, the opening half-hour or so sees McCall doing not much of anything at all. “The Equalizer 2” takes a really long time to deliver the plot.)

Is Washington good? Well, sure, it’s Denzel Washington. Even when he’s bad (as in his Oscar-nominated “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”) it looks suspiciously like being the best actor alive.

As for the rest of the movie, it’s a mixed bag at best. There’s a stretch of effective potboiler; there are scenes of palatable action. That opening scene is even a bit of Bond. These genre successes must compete for screen time with a dud of a subplot, in which McCall teaches a neighborhood kid (Ashton Sanders) the value of hard work and books.

That’s the catch-22 of a movie like “The Equalizer.” Because it stars Washington and is directed by Antoine Fuqua, it’s going to have much more competence and sheen than comparable genre fare. But for the same reason, it’s going to be loaded down with extraneous heft, when we’d much rather get back to the punching. It is simultaneously better and worse than it should be.


My Rating: 6/10

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