Plot: Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) continues to live a mostly solitary existence, but he also continues to help those in need, even if it means putting himself in harm’s way to do so. He remains close to his former handler Susan (Melissa Leo) and she offers him occasional assignments that require his unique skills, but he also lends a hand to those closer to home. This isn’t always mercenary work either, as he tries to mentor a young man with great promise as an artist and is a confidante for an old man who seeks to reclaim a piece of his past. He is drawn into more violent episodes as well, thanks to his work as a Lyft driver, where he encounters all kinds of people, some of whom need to be taught a lesson. But when Susan is killed as she investigates a murder case, McCall is devastated and becomes consumed with vengeance, so he unleashes the full scope of his skills to track down those responsible.
Entertainment Value: The Equalizer was a dark, fun thriller that had b movie vibes and unleashed a tight, action packed narrative. I had a lot of fun with that movie, so I hoped for more of the same with this sequel, which would also mark the first time Denzel Washington had returned in a sequel to one of his films. As often happens, this sequel escalates the action elements and aims for a larger scale, more explosive narrative, but the end result isn’t ideal. I liked seeing McCall back in action, but the original was a tight, smaller scope narrative and had a personal texture to it, while this sequel goes for more of a popcorn action approach. I am sure some will prefer this more set piece driven and wide open style of action movie, but I missed the b movie threads and personal scale, as that is what the original shine, at least for me. I still had fun with this movie, as it has some well crafted action sequences and effective tension, but McCall is more superhero than vigilante this time around. So while I do wish it didn’t lean toward generic action, The Equalizer 2 is still a solid watch.
As this is the first time Denzel Washington has made a sequel to one of his films, the movie is bound to live forever, even if only as a trivia question. I assumed if Denzel signed back up, the movie had to be special in some ways, given his other films that were never given a second installment. But while he performs well, this feels like an odd choice to finally back a sequel for, as The Equalizer 2 is a standard, big budget action movie with some thriller elements thrown in. But Washington is fun to watch as McCall, even if he does come across as more of an invincible action hero, rather than a tough, trained vigilante. So it is still fun to watch him in action, but his performance is less memorable the second time around. Pedro Pascal makes a capable villain, but again, the narrative feels less personal and by turn, he comes off like a generic action bad guy, no fault of his own. The cast also includes Melissa Leo, Orson Bean, Bill Pullman, Ashton Sanders, and Sakina Jaffrey.