In Equalizer 2, Robert McCall is back, fully taking on the mantle of Guardian Angel for the misfortunate. This go around, McCall (the brilliant Denzel Washington) hides in plain sight as a Lyft driver, paying attention to those around him and their troubles. When he feels they need assistance with his skills, he takes on their burden to balance the scales in the innocent’s favor. When tragedy strikes at home, however, he makes it his mission to solve the unjust crime committed on a friend and colleague.
The central conflict in Equalizer 2 is personal for McCall, but his training never lets him lose his cool. He’s collected the whole time, absorbing everything. The techniques established in the first film, in regards of the way he observes his surroundings, are reused here, but that is the only overtly connecting aspect of the two films. While that might be a hinderance for most franchises, it works well with this one. Equalizer 2 is beyond just a sequel, it’s a continuation of a complicated character and a film that continues to honor the source material, the original television show.
I never watched the original show, and my research is limited, but I’ve talked with others who enjoyed the show during its original airing. The use of the formulaic aspect of serialized shows works well with the vignettes of cases presented in the film against the backdrop of the main conflict of the plot. The Robin Hood characteristic was expressed during the first film, and it’s being carried through Equalizer 2. It adds depth to the story on screen, but I see it as a nice way to pay homage to the original show. McCall will always help those in need, never putting his desires over those of others.
With a film of this scale, it’s hard not to come across other reviewers with opposing opinions. I usually try not to pay attention to them because I don’t want to be swayed as we all have our own opinions to share. However, one thing stuck out to me in one I briefly came across, the discussion of the action. It was suggested that Equalizer 2 focuses more on action than before, and I whole-heartedly disagree. It’s a defining character trait that McCall knows how to take care of business, but he doesn’t do it willingly.
A choice is always given, and even if the standards are high for the correct answer, a choice is provided before the carnage begins. The action is also never just guns and quick hand movements done by McCall, it’s calculated. The unique resources used to defeat the perceived enemy not only highlights the skill embedded with the character, but the fact that he almost never goes in with guns blazing. He may be prepared, but he’s also prepared to seek other means of resolve. The action is entertaining and skillful, perfect for a summer action film, but I don’t feel it’s gratuitous as other blockbusters tend to be.
There are actors that are an audience draw, and for me that’s Washington. He puts his soul into his work, captivating the audience every moment he’s on screen. He’s never been one to soak up the limelight, nor does he seem to be strategic about his film roles, he’s just an actor. I mention this because in others hands, McCall could be a character that is a one-note action badass. However, the vast talents that Washington posses as an actor blends together in Equalizer 2 and allows for not only the strength but the vulnerability of the character to be displayed in this action film.
One of the most impactful scenes involves no action at all, just an emotional conversation between McCall and his young neighbor Miles (Ashton Sanders). It’s not the topic that’s discussed that’s important, it’s the message that becomes powerful. The passion that McCall has for his fellow humans is centered on his ability to see, and root for, their full potential. We all seek for those supporters that help us reach our dreams, and unfortunately some don’t have this available to them. What we do have is McCall, and this 10 or so minute scene transcends the screen to penetrate through our tough exteriors to find our humanity. We find role models in all sorts of arenas, Equalizer 2 happens to be one of the most recent.
Washington has done many films that showcase his abilities, but it’s when he finds a director he vibes well with that he truly shines. In the past it was Tony Scott, and those films will be a great example of the legacy Scott leaves behind, but Washington’s new chapter, which started with Training Day, is with Antoine Fuqua. It’s no secret that Equalizer 2 is the first sequel in Washington’s career, and I believe the connection that he shares with Fuqua is why this film stands above a typical sequel.
This connection is one that is equal in respect and freedom, allowing for both these men to play off the strengths of each other to elevate the material at hand. It’s a visual representation of collaboration, which in turns creates an entertaining and intense film. It’s hard to explain chemistry like this, and as an outsider I’m imposing my opinions over reality, but either way I will continue to watch these creative giants collaborate in whatever genre they chose.
Equalizer 2 is an action packed summer sequel that stands on its own as a character driven, emotional piece about correcting the wrong to tip it back into the scales of right.
Equalizer 2 opens nations wide Friday, July 20th.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by Sony