‘The Equalizer 2’ fights to set itself apart (review)

“We all got to pay for our sins.”

We are in full swing of summer blockbuster season! Now is the time where moviegoers pack out theaters to beat the heat and just enjoy some great movies. Four years ago, one of the greatest actors of our time, Denzel Washington, starred in The Equalizer, a film based on a late ’80s TV show. Fans found it refreshing and unique, a better contrast to the films Liam Neeson had come to create with his recent action films, no offense to Mr. Neeson.

Now, the sequel to the film has dropped, and moviegoers are excited to go out and see it. How will fans react to seeing Denzel back in action? Does the sequel hold a candle to the first film?

In The Equalizer 2, Denzel Washington returns to one of his signature roles in the first sequel of his career. Robert McCall (Washington) serves an unflinching justice for the exploited and oppressed – but how far will he go when that is someone he loves? Directed by unique filmmaker, Antoine Fuqua, the film stars Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders with Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo.

“The mistake they made was they killed my friend.”

Fuqua has emerged as a unique director with his own stylized vision of his films. From iconic films such as 2001’s Training Day and 2003’s Tears of the Sun, to films such as 2007’s Shooter and 2015’s Southpaw, Fuqua maintains a neutral dark tone throughout his films, while still having a hero emerge out of that darkness. This franchise is no different; The Equalizer tells the story of a man who -despite his own past- chooses to step out of the shadows, and stand for justice.

And much like the westerns of old, once the deed is done, the hero rides (or drives) off into the sunset. Herein lies the issue, unfortunately, with the sequel: our hero -after riding off into the sunset- returns to do what he did in the first film. This would be fine, except for the fact that now the film feels slightly redundant in its message.

In the approach to bringing back a soldier clearing the red in his ledger, the film ends up bringing back a man who unfortunately does the same thing he did in the previous film, just with different people. Although key elements of the plot and characters are different, the narrative as a whole are very much the same.

“They killed my friend. So I’m going to kill each and every one of them.”

As mentioned previously, Denzel does reprise his role in the sequel as Robert McCall. The sequel does a good job at trying to establish a bit more of his foundation, from his previous marriage and what had happened to his recently deceased wife. Unfortunately, even the incredible acting prowess of Denzel couldn’t draw me into the overly complicated narrative of the film.

From the concern Denzel’s character had for the local troubled young man, to his endeavor to try to find out who killed his best friend, to meeting new friends that thought he was dead, to watching him work as a Lyft driver, to reading all his books, to painting his apartment building that got vandalized, and so forth, the film creates too many areas of investment for moviegoers. It doesn’t place as much of a priority on the main threads that matter most in the, and thus, get lost in the mix of the two-hour film.

That doesn’t negate, however, how awesome Denzel is in just about everything he does. Whether he’s a football coach or a dirty cop, the man always brings his A-game when it comes to performing. Watching him have his natural swagger as he beats up some young guys in a high rise apartment, or command the presence of some drug dealers to save a young man, is always a treat to see on the big screen.

This film is no exception to that: Denzel Washington is one incredible actor. Sadly, none of this is enough to save the film from broadcasting its key plot points early in the film, thus creating a predictable product that, although delivers an exciting final battle between Denzel and the bad guys, comes half an hour too late.

“And the only disappointment is that I only get to do it once.”

All in all, The Equalizer 2 strives to become more than what we as moviegoers have come to expect with these types of films: an aging hero that doesn’t require several cuts from the editing room just to show him climbing a fence. We are in an era where those actors that exemplify the golden standard of Hollywood are getting to a place where they aren’t able to do what they used to in cinema.

That’s just the truth of the matter. Unfortunately, Denzel is getting to that point, and it’s beginning to show. This film soars high above the last Liam Neeson film, thankfully, but it does have the telltale signs of wanting to squeeze more blood from this stone. Despite the runtime, and some of the writing, I still enjoyed the action sequences, seeing Denzel mow down several bad guys, and -in the end- still survive. Denzel has always tried his best, and in this cacophony of a film, that counts more than anything else. Let’s just hope that the powers that be heed the powerful words of Harvey Dent: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Rating: 3/5 Atoms

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