- The Equalizer 2 (2018)
Robert leads a double life: he’s a cab driver by day and the protector of the vulnerable by night. Although his past with the marines and secret services seems to be far behind him, his own small missions keep him fighting for justice. When the string of mysterious death destroys his peaceful life and hits him with the misery of those he loves, he picks up on his own investigation once again – but can he handle the changes that run deeper than he expected?
The 2014 film hasn’t given Denzel Washington, an actor with an incredible range, much to explore, even if his magnetism breaks through practically every role he picks up. In The Equalizer, the protagonist protected a prostitute ill-treated by the Russian mob; in its sequel, he tries to unravel a conspiracy that seeped deep into the environment he once belonged to, threatening his friends Susan (Melissa Leo) and Dave (Pedro Pascal). The opening makes this film easy to watch for those unfamiliar with the series: it follows into the footsteps of a previous movie and erases nothing; it establishes the character on its own within the first minutes but without adding anything original into the mix. The protagonist is on the train in Turkey, explains his reasons, and hits out on the mobsters, delivering the little girl to the mother she’s been separated from; he follows it up with beating up a few financiers who mistreated their co-worker. The film opens, then it instantly flashes back to his techniques – without beating around the bush, we know what he’s about after this breezy intro.
The story still runs a little thin: the characters can be a little cartoonish, the events are predictable, and the plot doesn’t bother with complicated questions. The series follows an American hero archetype, and there’s little to question the meaning of justice, the moral code or lack thereof, or the price of vengeance. A thick, obvious border runs across the plot to separate the good and the bad, and although the story could leave plenty of space for nuance, it categorises everyone who appears on the screen in a pretty brash manner.
Arguably, the portrait of the fixer himself is drawn a little better this time. Yet again, he’s here to switch on his stopwatch and deal with the criminal in action sequences choreographed to boot; it’s always a joy to watch Denzel Washington in action. But the sequel gives him more opportunities to showcase his versatility: although the superhero archetype is still present, and the role conforms to the rules that The Equalizer established, a handful of truly emotional moments shine through the surface. There’s warmth in his interactions with his passengers, neighbours and friends – painting a picture of a caring man who transformed his dedication for justice into small, everyday acts. It’s a welcome antithesis to the ruthless agent trope, even if it goes a little underutilised. Particularly his interaction with Miles, an artsy teenager who hangs out with the wrong crowd, deserve recognition: they can be light and funny when they negotiate the payment for a destroyed mural, for instance, but also heart-wrenching when push comes to shove. Moonlight’s Ashton Sanders plays the young man with humour and charisma, partnering Washington with excellence.
Although The Equalizer 2 doesn’t add anything new to the story we’ve seen before and doesn’t stand out in terms of storytelling or execution, the performances and certain emotional connections are the highlights in an otherwise average action flick. Denzel Washington is still captivating, partnered by Ashton Sanders who creates something interesting out of an underwritten supporting character, and the humanity he brings to the character this time makes us just a tiny bit more forgiving when it comes to the rest of the flick.
The Equalizer opens in the UK on the 17th of August 2018.