In a world where bad people go unpunished with wearying regularity, films like The Equalizer 2 provide welcome escapism. For two hours, we get to see a movie star serve justice to the wicked, one neck-punch at a time.
Denzel Washington (in his first ever sequel), returns as Robert McKall, the kind, soft-spoken working class widower who moonlights as a violent vigilante. Sometimes this brings him abroad, where he ties up loose ends for his Interpol buddy Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo). Mostly though, he helps out everyday people in his neighbourhood or when he sees or hears bad deeds in his job as a freelance driver.
There’s a main plot, involving McKall helping to solve a brutal murder in Belgium from afar, a few diversions, and a subplot where he’s a father figure to an artistically talented, but potentially wayward teen named Miles. The McKall/Miles scenes are the film’s strongest, not least because of the acting chops of Washington and young Ashton Sanders (previously seen in Moonlight and Straight Outta Compton).
In the old guy vigilante scale, The Equalizer 2 ranks in the upper-middle; far above Taken 3, but definitely below Harry Brown. Anton Fuqua is a competent action director, and he’s not afraid to slow the film down for gentler scenes. Also, Washington, one of the last movie stars we have, is typically commanding and likable.
That said, I think I’ve seen a variation on this film roughly 100 times. And that would be the case even if The Equalizer 2 wasn’t a sequel to a film that itself was a remake of a TV show. Some of the painfully familiar expository dialogue has been said by character actors dozens of times over the decades: “I’m the only friend you’ve got,” “It’s what she would’ve wanted” and so on.
Despite its familiarity, it still manages to engage, and Denzel, even at 64, is convincing in a fight. In one especially poetic moment, a rich jerk is maimed by his own high-end credit card.