L&D were a little nervous heading into The Equalizer 2, having missed the first installment of the series. OK, so that’s a joke we have leaned on before, but it was somewhat apt in this case, as it isn’t clear exactly who the Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) character is fashioned after. It could be a James Bond / Jason Bourne type. Or maybe a Charles Bronson / Bruce Willis vigilante justice warrior. After some deliberation, I’ve settled on Jack Ryan, the brains and the brawn. The film spends almost as much time with McCall studying and sleuthing as he does with him kicking ass and taking names, going out of its way to make McCall a cerebral character. They even go so far as to show his ability to solve mysteries from a few thousand miles away through some sort of out-of-body, mental transcendence method. It’s a neat trick.
But although McCall is sort of an amalgam of modern action heroes, what we get here is a movie about tying up loose ends, with McCall himself — ironically, perhaps — being the biggest loose end of all. There are by my count four main plot lines that don’t quite converge, and getting to the finish mixes a bit of intrigue with a lot of syrupy absurdity to get to tie it all back together. The main plot line involves McCall getting dragged out of his anonymous life of a Lyft driver and back in with the old gang within the deep state. The gang includes the brilliant Melissa Leo and the super smoldery Pedro Pascal, both who are blessed with the ability to make you care even when there’s not much there. We are also treated to a boilerplate father-figure story line focusing on Ashton Sanders.
Amdist the primary action hero drivers, there are some attempts to introduce some non-trivial meditations on social justice — including Denzel providing Sanders with a copy of Between the World and Me, a father-figure moment if there ever was one — but there are no serious attempts to elaborate or explore, so these angles ultimately turn out to be trivial. If I’m not mistaken, the gang members who are exhorting the Ashton Sanders character to go on a murdering spree are listed as his “buddies” in the credits. Did I read that correctly?
But all that said, the production values in this are exceptional and enjoyable. The opening sequence with McCall driving around Boston as a Lyft driver kicked things off in style, and I would have been happy watching that for an hour. The first hour or so set at least one plot line nicely, and the movie only began to unravel once the bad guy is revealed, culminating with the kill the bad guys in reverse order — from least relevant to most relevant. Even so, you had to admire the production values as this went on.
A meh from L&D on this one, though we did enjoy cavorting about it afterwards (though we spent more time talking about the Bruce Willis Death Wish movie that about the Equalizer). The summer blockbusters seem to have hit a soft spot, so if you have a coupon or or out and about on bargain Tuesday, this is a good movie to munch some popcorn to. But I am guessing this will be upstaged by the Thursday release of the latest Mission: Impossible incarnation. I guess we will have to see.