The Equalizer 2 (2018) (Review)

With Hollywood constantly prowling for the next franchise, it is surprising that Denzel Washington - one of the most enduring actors of our time - is only now starring in his very first sequel. In the follow-up to The Equalizer, imaginatively titled The Equalizer 2 (why not The Sequelizer, Sony? I'm already docking you a point for missing that one), Washington returns as Robert McCall, once again seeking revenge against society's bad apples - but is this a worthy sequel to break Denzel's cycle or has he finally caved into the cash cow that is cinematic franchising?

Retired CIA Black Ops operative Robert McCall continues to assist the less fortunate with the help of his friend Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) while moonlighting as an unflinching vigilante when justice requires his unique set of skills. As one of the few remaining 'movie stars', Washington's star power lifted the first film to success in the face of middling reviews, leading to this second instalment four years later. Let's say, if a theoretical The Equalizer 3 dropped in a few years, I wouldn't be rushing to see it.

Richard Wenk returns to pen the sequel's sloppy script, containing more subplots than you can count on two hands, each as dull and accountable for the film's excruciatingly bloated runtime as the next. It is fit to burst with storylines, most of which are unsuccessful in developing towards anything remotely satisfying; none of them are strong enough to stand on their own, so Wenk compensates by piling the stories on top of each other, as if to reinforce the foundations. Instead, because it's all so hollow and disjointed, it collapses: it operates purely as an excuse for Washington to crack some bones and save the day - for many, including myself, that isn't enough when the film is otherwise devoid of real thrills or flair.

As with the writing, the directing could do with a tightening. Infrequently stylish during the bigger set pieces but otherwise choppy and bland, Antoine Fuqua's sequel is a baggy piece that delivers more of the same with little will or ambition to try anything new. If the first film didn't win you over, this won't change your mind; if you did like the first film, it's difficult to imagine The Equalizer 2 being anything more than serviceable. It's a pointless exercise and although it finally springs to life during the final act, delivering some suitably thrilling, bone-crushing shenanigans, it ultimately failed to win me over. It's too little, too late because Fuqua's pacing is so horribly unbalanced. It's slow, bloated and crammed, a slog to endure at times and with no one on hand to offer restraint, you'll find yourself clock-watching, beggining it to wrap up soon.

Denzel Washington's swagger is undeniable and the attempt to lose himself in McCall is clear; it is not overselling it to say that Washington commits. If only he was committing to one of the stronger characters in his filmography. Although his mission for revenge is more personally-tethered this time around, the script (and therefore Washington) face difficulty in developing McCall because they cannot focus on a single narrative thread at one time, unable to nurture anything in the way of emotion. There are character developmental flourishes here and there but nothing truly exceptional or convincing. All supporting players struggle to make an impact too, mainly due to how aggressively it strains to juggle everyone and everything.

For such a cliched and rote vigilante thriller that rarely strays from conventions, The Equalizer 2 is a pretentious and uneven piece without the creativity or subversion to match its high opinion of itself. It is a handful of decent action scenes with such a large amount of padding that it hardly justifies itself at all; in fact, one would argue, that The Equalizer 2 is the most unnecessary and disposable sequel of the year.


Summary: The Equalizer 2 may be the first sequel of Denzel Washington's career but like the first instalment in this underwhelming vigilante-thriller series, it wastes his talent, delivering a bland and mindless muddle of subplots with no real focus or restraint.