By Bradley Griffith
Twenty-five years ago “The Equalizer 2” would never have been made. The movie industry wasn’t the sequel-obsessed town it is now. The first movie was fairly entertaining, but it didn’t necessarily scream out for a sequel. Still, “The Equalizer 2” is an entertaining, if wholly unbelievable, movie.
Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is a former special ops government agent who was able to retire only by faking his own death. The only two people who know he is still alive are his former colleague and friend, Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo), and her husband, Brian (Bill Pullman). In addition to being the only people who know his real identity, Susan and Bill are his only friends.
While in the first movie McCall was working at a home improvement store known as Home Mart, in the sequel McCall works as a Lyft driver. In this job McCall has regular customers, and he regularly meets people who need help, the special kind of help that only someone with his skills can offer.
McCall spends his days and nights driving for Lyft as well as righting wrongs all over the city. He helps an elderly Holocaust survivor who is trying to gain possession of a portrait of his dead sister. He helps a young woman who was brutalized by a group of supposed “professional” young men. He is even trying to keep a teenage boy in his apartment building from being swallowed up by the gangs and violence in the city.
Things change for McCall when Susan is murdered in Paris while investigating the murder of a U.S. agent. McCall goes from mourning to murderous intent in a flash as he tries to find and eliminate the criminals who killed Susan. But, he needs help. He enlists the help of his former partner, Dave York (Pedro Pascal), who still works for the government and has access to information that McCall needs.
The first half of “The Equalizer 2” involves the set-up to the story and McCall’s efforts to find Susan’s killers. The story has a distinct detective vibe, which is different from the original movie that focused on McCall protecting a young prostitute from the Russian mafia. He knew exactly who they were and where to find them. In the sequel McCall must first find his enemy, which is a better story than pure guns-blazing glory.
The second act of the movie is all about action. When he finds the criminals, there’s no doubt that he won’t stop until he kills every person who had anything to do with Susan’s murder. This creates some good action scenes. Unfortunately, it also creates many unbelievable and unrealistic scenes. For instance, despite car chases in the middle of the city, cars lit on fire, and mayhem in hotel rooms, there is no police presence whatsoever. McCall can apparently do whatever he wants in the most public ways possible and get away scot-free.
The final battle royale of the movie takes place on an island in the middle of a hurricane. As settings go, it’s original. The problem is that it would be almost impossible to shoot straight in such windy conditions, especially from a sniper’s position over a hundred yards away.
Denzel Washington has long a been a favorite of most movie fans. He’s good in action movies and dramas. He does a fine job here, but I can’t help but think he would be better served to stick with the intense dramas that made a name for him in Hollywood.
“The Equalizer 2” is not going to win any Academy Awards, but no one ever thought it would. That is not the movie’s purpose. Its purpose is to provide you with two hours of mindless entertainment, and it does that, with emphasis on mindless.
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Rated R for brutal violence throughout, language, and some drug content.