Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Review: "THE EQUALIZER 2" is Brutal and Personal

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 40 of 2023 (No. 1929) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Equalizer 2 (2018)
Running time:  121 minutes (2 hours, 1 minute)
MPAA – R for brutal violence throughout, language, and some drug content
DIRECTOR:  Antoine Fuqua
WRITER:  Richard Wenk (based on the television series created by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim)
PRODUCERS:  Antoine Fuqua, Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Tony Eldridge, Mace Neufeld, Alex Siskin, Michael Sloan, Steve Tisch, and Denzel Washington
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Oliver Wood (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Conrad Buff IV
COMPOSER:  Harry Gregson-Williams


Starring:  Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Orson Bean, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, Jonathan Scarfe, Kazy Tauginas, Garrett A. Golden, and Sakina Jaffrey

The Equalizer 2 is a 2018 action movie and crime thriller directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Denzel Washington.  It is a sequel to the 2014 film, The Equalizer.”  Both films are based on the television series, “The Equalizer,” which was created by  Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim and was originally broadcast on CBS from 1985 to 1989.  The Equalizer 2 finds Robert McCall out to make the people who murdered someone he loves pay for their crimes with their lives.

The Equalizer 2 opens on a train headed to Istanbul, Turkey.  Robert “Bob” McCall (Denzel Washington) is about to serve his unflinching brand of justice on man who kidnapped his daughter in order to punish his ex-wife.  McCall still lives quietly in Boston, where he works as a Lyft driver and assists the less fortunate, the exploited, and the oppressed.  Among the people he is currently helping include Samuel “Sam” Rubinstein (Orson Bean), a Holocaust survivor trying to recover a painting of his sister, Magda, who died in a Nazi death camp.  Lately, he has taken an interest in Miles (Ashton Sanders), a troubled African-American teen who lives in the same apartment building.  Miles has tremendous artistic talent, but he is also being recruited by a violent, drug-dealing street gang.

However, the big action is in Brussels, Belgium.  There, Robert's friend and former DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) colleague, Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo), is investigating the apparent murder-suicide of DIA “agency affiliate” and his wife.  That investigation costs Susan her life.  McCall begins investigating Susan's murder with the assistance of her colleague and his former DIA teammate, Dave York (Pedro Pascal).  Determined to avenge Susan's murder, McCall will have to go deep into his past and risk endangering people very close to him.

With his Oscar-winning turn in 2001's Training Day, Denzel Washington proved to be a convincing bad guy.  With 2010's The Book of Eli, Washington showed that he could be a bad-ass, kick-ass, action hero with fancy martial arts-styled moves.  The first take on The Equalizer allowed Washington to blend hero and anti-hero in a visceral mix.  So in anticipation of The Equalizer 3, I decided to see The Equalizer 2, of which I have seen bits and pieces on television over the past few years.

In the original film, the screenplay by Richard Wenk had McCall constantly in peril or made it seem as if he were in danger even when he was not.  Wenk returns for the sequel and delivers a script that adds compassion to the standard revenge thriller.  McCall can be a gentle soul helping a teen go through growing pains that are filled with danger, and he can lend a kind ear to an old man whose current quest could be the real thing or the result of a failing memory crashing from the accumulation of data over a long life.  On the other hand, McCall will also break a mutha down to the blood and bone if he deserves such a reckoning, even if it means killing him.

The Equalizer would be a standard revenge thriller if its avenger were portrayed by just any other movie star, but Denzel Washington is a consummate professional and charismatic actor.  That means he can deliver the meat and potatoes and the art to every performance – whether it is Shakespeare on stage or Hollywood entertainment product destined for the multiplex.  In this second film, Washington super-charges his performance in order to make the personal so personal that it is murderous. 

Director Antoine Fuqua plays Washington's skills for everything he can get out of this brilliant actor.  Fuqua is an impressive director in his own right, especially when it comes to dark, violent, dramatic thrillers, such as Shooter (2007).  Together, Fuqua and Washington deliver in The Equalizer 2 a film that slightly surpasses the original.  I find myself endlessly fascinated by it because The Equalizer 2 is a really good thriller.

7 of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

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