By Steven Sheehan.
You’ll never see Denzel Washington hanging off the side of a plane, the tallest tower in the world, or messing around with helicopters in the mountains like Tom Cruise, but he’s an actor you can always rely on. Even when everything around him is below par he still remains watchable and can sometimes salvage the unsalvageable.
Denzel’s at it again in The Equalizer 2, following up on 2014’s modest hit that saw him take the role of kind-hearted vigilante Robert McCall. At 63, most actors would struggle to make a convincing case for being able to take out 4 or 5 men single-handed – but Washington still makes it look effortless.
In The Equalizer 2, McCall has moved on from his hardware store job and now works as a Lyft driver (a US competitor to Uber), quietly watching the world go by as regulars and newcomers climb in and out the back of his car. Where needed he’ll step in, to right a few wrongs, acting as judge and jury – and executor, if needed – not seeking praise, or money, and generally living a humble life.
His only friend, Susan (Melissa Leo) reprises her role from the first film, along with husband Brian (Bill Pullman) and when a new case puts her in danger McCall steps in action. She is working side-by-side with his old secret service partner Dave York (Pedro Pascal) and together they team up to wade through the conspiracies as they try to find out who the bad guys really are.
To his credit, what director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen) attempts to do is flesh out more of McCall’s background by focusing on the character instead of the action. Unlike many other thrillers, the stakes are far smaller with no madmen posturing to blow up the world. Instead, Fuqua does the complete opposite by making a slow, pondering two-hour film that never gains momentum.
A couple of subplots include the mentoring of a young budding artist called Miles (Ashton Sanders) and something to do with a painting and a regular client called Sam (Orson Bean). Rather than telling us anything new about McCall it simply reinforces what we already knew: he can snap a man’s neck in the blink of an eye but deep down he’s a big teddy bear.
In The Equalizer 2 Miles and Sam are merely a distraction and get in the way of a story that only reveals snippets of McCall’s mysterious past. At least 20 minutes could be cut away to add more zip to the laborious pace which would also shorten the extended gaps in-between the brief bursts of action.
Washington makes the most out of a lightweight script, adding gravitas to a character who still remains an archetype after two films. Still, he has enough star power to pull in a big enough crowd just by his name alone. The Equalizer 2 is a small scale affair compared to most films that go on to make a second (and maybe third) film, but Washington always remains larger than life.
The Equalizer 2 opens in UK cinemas on Friday 17th August.