Film Review – The Equalizer 2
The Equalizer 2
Remakes of old TV shows have long been a kind of investment safety net for Hollywood. They get to take something with built in brand recognition, an already established outline of a concept or story, and often premade characters that they can simply recast. Whether it’s Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible-ing all over the globe or Scooby Doo redone with modern teen friendly actors or trying to satirize the original concept of the TV show in question like those Brady Bunch movies, the studios like the security that a prefab existing property affords them. Sometimes something great can come of it: look at The Fugitive or honestly most of those Missions Impossible. So Denzel Washington‘s latest franchise in the making seems very within the movies’ wheelhouse. It’s a little odd that The Equalizer has been used this way. It’s a TV show from the 80’s that more people remember the name of than anything about the actual show. Quick, without looking it up, what was the main character’s name? Edward Woodward was already a bit past his prime after having a long career in England when the original show was on. And the show was a kind of basic action procedural. So it must be that movie studios have already exploited every property they have and are on to the B and C level stuff. Not that that’s a bad thing, just that it’s odd to bank on a show that most people don’t remember starred a former Intelligence Agent turned Private Detective who drove a limo at night named Robert McCall (bonus points for getting that answer right). So the fact that Denzel has been able to turn this into now two movies with roughly the same plot is a testament to how watchable he is.
In the sequel, The Equalizer 2, Denzel’s character now drives a Lyft at night (I’m very curious to find out how much they paid for that product placement) and cruises for worthy causes to which he can lend his talents. At the beginning we see him finishing a mission for one such underdog cause. The action is quick and efficient. When he takes out a room full of bad guys on a moving train it looks plausible and still kick-ass. Much like Liam Neeson, Washington is making a name for himself in film as a senior citizen who can beat an abnormal amount of butt.
He touches base with an old Intelligence Operative friend played by Melissa Leo who is investigating hitmen in Europe who have taken out a noted government official. When her investigation goes awry, McCall takes it as his personal mission to get to the bottom of the botched operation and get revenge.
A lot of this film is nothing you haven’t seen a thousand times before. The villain is supposed to be a twist but it’s amongst the most predictable of tropes in action film. The hired assassins he has to fight are suitably brutal and kind of generic. But at least this movie also takes the time to be quiet and modulate between the brutal action scenes and the moments where McCall is simply reading a book or giving life lessons to a budding student artist in his neighborhood in an effort to keep him out of gang life or encouraging his Muslim neighbor whose gardening in their apartment complex. No, there’s nothing revolutionary about any of this, but it’s got more going for it than a Michael Bay film that’s just CGI action and nothing else.
Watching a second film in this series made me realize that these are essentially Westerns in modern dress. The lone gunman who champions the downtrodden in a corrupt town. And the climax of the film has McCall isolated fighting his enemies in a beachfront community that has been evacuated due to an oncoming Hurricane. In fact, the staging of the climax is reminiscent one of the Bourne Identity movies where our hero has to take out a group of professional hitmen one by one.
The fighting is brutal and efficient. There are a couple of genuine cheer-for-the-hero moments. Orson Bean is touching as an old man friend McCall drives on occasion and has a reward at the end. Is The Equalizer 2 a great movie? No. It’s kind of silly and it is very predictable. But it’s also entertaining and stars one of our greatest living movie actors. All things being equal, it’s an okay film.