Review by C.J. Bunce
Is he a superhero?
A character who gives of himself to save lives, repeatedly, using his unusual mental and physical abilities–that’s pretty much our definition of superhero. If The Punisher is a superhero, if Batman would be a superhero without the costume, then you have the The Equalizer. Denzel Washington is back again, in the sequel to the surprise 2014 reboot of the 1980s television series, and if you missed Washington as this character in 2014, it’s time to catch up, as The Equalizer 2 makes its way to several steaming platforms, including Vudu and Amazon Prime, and it’s now showing on Starz.
And what a sequel! It is another one of those rare films that surpasses its predecessor. More intrigue, more action, and even without the origin story from the first movie, The Equalizer 2 proves audiences don’t need it to jump into a finally crafted story of spies and revenge. Washington is back as Robert McCall, and he’s The Saint, Ethan Hunt, James Bond, and The Shadow all rolled up into one. This time he’s started a new life in Boston, and learns about the city through his job as a Lyft driver. Diehard film fans really only need to see the one other name on the marquee with Washington to know what they’re in for: Antoine Fuqua. Fuqua (Training Day, Shooter, The Magnificent Seven) directs the film like he does all his others, like he has something to prove. The Equalizer 2 is worthy of its popular and critically acclaimed star, and Fuqua adds to the character with a spectacular setting for the film’s finale: a hurricane pummeling the coast of Massachusetts.
If you’re looking forward to the new Star Wars television series The Mandalorian, you have another reason to catch The Equalizer 2, as the series star Pedro Pascal (Kingsman: The Golden Circle, The Great Wall) plays a former team member of McCall in his CIA days. The subplots may even be better than the main story, and in one McCall mentors a young neighbor played by Ashton Sanders (Moonlight). Other supporting roles are filled by some familiar faces, including returning actors Melissa Leo (Homicide, Oblivion, Wayward Pines, Veronica Mars) and Bill Pullman (Deceived, Independence Day, Spaceballs), plus the always versatile Sakina Jaffrey (Heroes, Sleepy Hollow, Mr. Robot).
Is he a superhero?
Even if you don’t buy a guy without a cape is a superhero, you’re going to be in for a treat, as all those things that make you feel good about superheroes are here. As McCall fights for the rights of the underdog against all levels of power and influence, you just know the payoff is going to be great. It is as satisfying as the best spy or action movie franchise films. And it’s one of the most successful reboots. The original TV series was great, but this is something entirely different.
You just know a bad guy is going to hurt every time McCall syncs his watch. As with all his action movies Washington physically can keep up with anyone, and whether it’s him or a stunt performer we don’t care–he’s in there dishing out the pain like Tom Cruise or like Jackie Chan’s 2017 sleeper hit The Foreigner.
Now that Fuqua and Washington have two of these films behind them, audiences know what to expect. A Mission: Impossible level franchise shouldn’t be that difficult to muster. And the character of Robert McCall has a special subtlety that doesn’t require guns a’blazin’ or extraordinary, costly special effects. In many ways The Equalizer is updated 1980s Mickey Spillane/Mike Hammer crime novels, reconfigured by Fuqua as a noir vigilante for the 21st century. Richard Wenk wrote the script for the film as he did for the prior film in the series. He knows the genre, as can be seen in his writing for Mechanic, The Expendables 2, The Magnificent Seven, and the Jack Reacher sequel.
The Equalizer 2 is the action thrill ride you might have missed in the theater in 2018, but don’t miss it now. The Equalizer 2 is now streaming on Vudu and Amazon Prime, and free for subscribers to Starz. It’s also available on 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD, here at Amazon.