Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
The Equalizer 2

Title: The Equalizer 2

Describe This Movie In One Risky Business Quote:

JOEL'S DAD: Joel, do you hear something odd? Something unpleasant?
JOEL'S DAD: A preponderance of bass, perhaps?
JOEL'S DAD: Is this the way I left the equalizer?
Brief Plot Synopsis: If an assassin retires in Boston and no one hears him, does he still kill people?

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2 right hands of God out of 5.

Tagline: "There is no equal."

Better Tagline: "It's the loneliness that's the killer."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Presumed dead CIA agent Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) doesn't appear to be worried about anyone figuring out his mysterious past, considering he's still living in Boston after the explosive events of the first movie. Driving a Lyft affords him the opportunity to pursue his hobby of administering brutal street justice to deserving parties, his only link to the past being Agency friend Susan Palmer (Melissa Leo). When she's killed investigating a plot against CIA operatives, McCall reaches out to former teammate Dave York (Pedro Pascal) to get to the bottom of things.

"Critical" Analysis:
The Equalizer 2 is Denzel Washington's first sequel, which is ... honestly, kind of weird. He's appeared in almost 50 movies since his 1981 feature debut (Carbon Copy), and while follow-ups of some of his previous flicks don't make sense for obvious reasons (Malcolm X, Glory, The Hurricane), there's no reason some of his less ... conclusive roles couldn't be revisited.

That this eventual honor should go to 2014's The Equalizer is therefore more a mild surprise than a huge one. Washington has worked with director Antoine Fuqua before, on Training Day and the Magnificent Seven reboot as well as the first Equalizer, so revisiting the character of McCall was probably pretty comforting. Unfortunately, that might be the reason Part 2 is a turgid affair that limps its way to an uninspired climax.

Both Equalizers run about 2.5 hours long, for no good reason. The first movie was a weird juxtaposition between setting up McCall as a fastidiously anal retentive murder operative and a laughably ultraviolent climax, but here Fuqua doesn't even try to recapture the original's bananapants third act, opting instead to draw out the supposed tension and clogging the proceedings with unnecessary subplots.

It's established early on, and to great effect, that McCall is still capable of delivering mayhem (and would anyone really object to a whole movie of him kneecapping Goldman Sachs date rapists?). Why then do Fuqua and screenwriter Richard Wenk spend the subsequent 90 minutes laboring over the meandering conspiracy involving McCall's former team (they're being murdered for ... reasons)?

At the same time, they split time between McCall assisting an elderly Holocaust survivor (in his quest to track down a lost sister) and saving a young neighbor (Ashton Sanders) from a life of crime. The latter plot being about as fresh as it was when the Edward Woodward TV series these films are allegedly based on first aired. These issues aside, why base a second movie on a nigh-unstoppable killing machine and then not have him kill for most of it?

Occasional good deeds aside (and what happened to the online "Equalizer" ads, introduced at the end of the first movie and complete missing here?), McCall isn't entirely sympathetic. Even getting past the whole "ex-CIA black ops" thing, he's as likely to come to the assistance of his last remaining friend as he is the owner of his favorite bookstore, which could just mean his hatred of Barnes & Noble is as intense as his thirst for justice.

The Equalizer 2 isn't good, but its relative lack of quality feels more like laziness than direct incompetence. Fuqua's a decent action director, cinematographer Oliver Wood uses his Bourne series sensibilities to decent effect here, and Washington is Washington. Still, it's a shame we ended up with this instead of a few more Easy Rawlins movies.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar