The Equalizer 2 (2019)

Rating: C-

Dir: Antoine Fuqua
Star: Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Bill Pullman

I don’t remember much about the original Equalizer film. Indeed, I had to check my original review, to be certain I had actually seen it, such was the lack of impact it made on me. But I am fairly sure that in it, Robert McCall (Washington) did at least remain true to the basic concept of the original TV series, summed up in the newspaper advert which he used to get clients: “Got a problem? Odds against you? Call The Equalizer.” I am, at least, certain that Edward Woodward did not head off on missions, seeking vengeance for himself. Because that’s the main thrust of the plot here, to the point where it should probably be renamed The PersonalVendettaMan.

Oh, sure, McCall still does some light equalizing at the beginning and end. And in between, occasionally yells tough love statements such as “I don’t want to hear ’bout your environment, what your momma didn’t give you and the white man won’t give you” at troubled youth Miles Whittaker (Sanders), for hanging out with the wrong crowd. But it feels more like this is putting in contractual obligated work, perhaps required by a court order. All his energy and enthusiasm are instead put towards hunting down the killer of a friend and former spook colleague. This is just the kind of tired spy/revenge film we’ve seen before, and there’s precious little to indicate why this should be the movie which caused Washington to make the first sequel in his career.

It’s also apparent that equalizing doesn’t pay what it should, perhaps having been outsourced to cheaper equalizers in Asia. For McCall is forced to make ends meet by working as a Lyft driver, which is certainly an unusual form of product placement. I suspect the company probably didn’t get any further than “…will be featured in a Denzel Washington movie,” and forgot to inquire about the specifics. Clearly, if you’re engaged in any kind of nefarious scheme, call an Uber instead, unless you want the driver all up in your business and breaking heads – while still demanding a five-star rating, I shit you not.

Washington still gives it his best, and manages to elevate the pedestrian material, growling his nuggets of life wisdom at Miles in a way which gives them more impact than cliches should have. In his hands, this is watchable enough, even if you rarely able to forget the inherent idiocy, resulting from the half-baked storyline. For it all degenerates into a particularly ludicrous shoot-out in a New England seaside town, conveniently deserted due to an impending storm. In contrast to the strictly urban feel up to that point, this feels as if it had been cut and pasted in from another script. And the ending will comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with the premise of Chekhov’s Tower: if you make a point of having an inexplicably tall building present in your finale, someone will inevitably fall or be thrown off it.