The Equalizer 2 (2018)
The Equalizer 2 (2018)

Genre: Action Running Time: 2 hrs. 1 min.

Release Date: July 20th, 2018 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Antoine Fuqua Actors: Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Melissa Leo, Bill Pullman, Ashton Sanders, Sakina Jaffrey, Orson Bean

 


 

I

n full Turkish disguise, Robert “Mac” McCall (Denzel Washington) infiltrates a Eurasian railway to apprehend a kidnapper. Perhaps his only giveaway is his inability to speak the language. But wait – it turns out he knows a phrase or two, particularly when necessary in provoking his target. In fact, Mac is always several steps ahead of the bad guys, signified by the camera’s zoom into his eye, which tends to see not only everything around him, but also exactly how knife-toting or gun-brandishing thugs will react. And so, in the blink of an eye (or, again, the cinematographic gimmick of delving into the spinning gears of Mac’s mind), villains are dispatched (and timed with a stopwatch, which is never explained).

He may not have rippling muscles, but he can outsmart his opponents. Oddly, despite the film’s efforts to portray McCall as a sound investigator with a striking intelligence, he oftentimes resorts to physical acts; like Liam Neeson in his many action hero roles, Washington is too old to engage in martial arts fights, but he does so anyway with the aid of tricky editing and framing. Here, when outthinking his enemies isn’t enough, McCall smashes faces and breaks appendages.

As with the first film, there’s something terribly off about the level of violence. Robert might be an antihero, but he routinely resorts to sadistic retribution; it’s an eye for an eye (literally, not figuratively), but with the retaliation involving the gruesome gouging out of said eye. In many moments, inexcusably nasty violence is concluded with a joke, as if to lessen the intensity; but with bloodshed so uncompromising – even toward women – it’s tough to find the fun in just deserts. It doesn’t help that the picture promotes vigilantism with such extremism; it’s never enough to break an arm to teach a lesson – every bone in that arm has to be snapped in opposite directions for maximum effect. There may be catharsis in seeing injustices righted, but that relief is unequivocally diminished when the protagonist goes out of his way to torture or mutilate the culprits. McCall isn’t the bigger man in these instances. He is, however, equalizing the situation.

As for the story, Robert returns to Boston, where he catches up on books (which relate to activities in his life) and works as a Lyft driver (an unmistakable marketing ploy). Meanwhile, in Belgium, something is amiss. Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo), a longtime government contact who helps with digging up information for Mac’s vigilante schemes, looks into the suicide of an asset. But when she gets close to figuring out the unlikeliness of the death, she becomes targeted as well. And it’s up to McCall to get to the bottom of the conspiracy – a primary plot that introduces itself nearly an hour into the film.

Rather than focusing solely on this premise, “The Equalizer 2” covers numerous subplots as well, which hurts the pacing and generates extraneous characters. Audiences are well aware that Mac only kills guilty people, yet he also has time to promote a stay-in-school directive for wayward youth Miles (Ashton Sanders), fix some graffiti on the walls of his apartment complex, and comfort the elderly Sam (Orson Bean), a Holocaust survivor. He also reminisces about his wife Vivian, though viewers are never given definitive answers as to what happened in that relationship. Attention is paid to more pressing matters, such as Mac recreating crime scenes in his head, to exhaustive lengths, even when viewers have already seen exactly what took place; it’s as if he’s visually solving a mystery long after the mystery has been solved onscreen.

It makes little difference, since the revelations are entirely predictable and the assemblage of villains serve only as fodder for ruthless slaughtering. The finale, though set in a unique location for a showdown, feels a bit like a slasher, with background elements utilized on the spot for bloodily injurious attacks. It’s a cross between “Home Alone” and “Saw” – where the henchmen with bigger beards get it worst of all.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10