Denzel Washington is back and ready to deal out plenty of justice in its most ruthless form as former black ops assassin turned vigilante do-gooder Robert McCall who has a penchant for helping the little guy in The Equalizer 2. But this time McCall’s fight is a far more personal battle….and there will be no turning back.
Continuing to fight the good fight for those that can’t fight for themselves Robert McCall (Washington) appears to have found both purpose and peace in his life. But this is shattered forever when his friend and former handler Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) is murdered by a dangerous group of mercenaries. Suddenly pulled back into the life he thought he’d left behind, McCall declares all-out war on Susan’s killers.
With The Equalizer 2 Denzel Washington is back in action and whats more this is his first ever sequel! In the Academy Award winners magnificent career he has never once returned to reprise a character before so it’s pretty cool to see that he decided he had more to do as Robert McCall and it’s a decision I was certainly pleased about.
Again Denzel wastes no time as McCall and as soon as the first frame begins to roll he’s back fighting the good fight and serving up a dose of brutal justice to those who deserve it…along with offering them a choice: either except responsibility and offer to pay for your sin or reap the whirlwind. It’s exactly where we last left off in 2014’s The Equalizer and Denzel doesn’t miss a beat in his layered performance as this old school warrior.
Where his performance gets interesting is that The Equalizer 2 takes us deeper into McCall’s history and opens him up further as to what makes him tick and how the events and relationships of his past have shaped him into the man we know today. With this film we get the chance to learn more about the life he lived with his wife Vivienne before she sadly passed on, how his career as a CIA operative came to a close and why he’s willing to do what he does for the little guy. But this focus on the past also leads to McCall’s own sins, the ‘bad things he’s done in his life’ in order to protect the American Dream and how those sins will need to be repayed one day.
We also get to see a lot more into his own psychology this time around. While it was hinted that he may have certain psychopathic tendencies in the first film, here they open up completely and there are several moments when he unleashes the beast all in an effort to make a point. While he might be the good guy make no mistake McCall is a very dangerous man and we get to see him at his darkest here.
This desire to take things to the next level and really amp up The Equalizer 2 comes down to the collaboration between Washington and his director and long-time creative partner Antoine Fuqua. This is the fourth film that these two have made together and given their solid working relationship they were again able to smash things out of the park. Fuqua understands his actor and this character innately and because of this is able to guide Washington in some interesting directions as McCall. This whole film is about stepping everything up a notch, delivering the same badass action and character moments of the original Equalizer film, while also exploring new territory with the sequel.
One way this is approached with The Equalizer 2 was in relation to how the film seeks to show a different side of McCall’s abilities. While in the first film he was primarily a reactionary force, here in the sequel he’s more of a hunter, readily analyzing the world he finds himself in and trying to determine what the motives and actions of these new bad guys are.
Fuqua also plays around with the film’s thematic elements and its unique Boston setting, drawing on the regions wild weather to represent McCall’s mood and emotions as the film progresses. Part of this is related to a growing storm that builds throughout the film before finally unleashing itself in the third act. It’s a great metaphor for the impending reckoning that is building inside McCall and the storm that he intends to unleash on some very bad men.
I’ve also got to send some praise to Washington’s co-star Pedro Pascal who joins the film as his former CIA partner David York. Pascal gives another solid performance here and really holds his own with Washington in the scenes they share together. As York he’s kind of McCall’s shadow and presents a sort of ‘what if’ character. It’s an interesting dynamic that they share together and I was very impressed with what I witnessed up on screen here.
While I have tried to stay away from narrative spoilers with this review I will say that McCall is no longer battling the violent, yet sluggish Russian Mafia thugs of the first film, but instead a new assortment of highly trained and efficient mercenary killers. These bad guys are ready to fight dirty and McCall meets them head on in a series of brutal fight sequences that only get more intense as the film moves forward. Washington is again efficient and to the point with his combat and again uses an assortment of weaponry and hand-to-hand combat techniques to complete the mission. Let’s just say that once again things get gnarly this time and Fuqua again engages his unique ‘Equalizer vision’ as McCall scans his environment and lowers his heart rate before opening up on his enemies and destroying them completely. If you like action that cuts right to the core, well, you’ll get it here.
Denzel Washington once again delivers as Robert McCall in The Equalizer 2 and he delivers with absolute extreme prejudice. This lone wolf assassin is the modern day samurai we need in this world and his commitment to carrying out justice to its fullest really makes you root for him. Once again it’s all about leveling the playing field, and he’ll always give you a choice to make the right decision….just make sure you do it.
Image: Sony Pictures