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‘Equalizer 2’ plays like geriatric ‘John Wick’

July 28, 2018

The first “Equalizer” ended in one of the more surreal...no, just flat-out ridiculous…sequences, even for an action film. In it, Denzel Washington, the retired CIA black ops agent, takes on a gaggle of Russian operatives in a Home Depot-like big-box home improvement store, using only the various tools the store has at his disposal. 

It was a level of absurdity that added a (perhaps unintentional) comical conclusion to an otherwise by-the-numbers vigilante justice thriller. And Washington has had his share of over-the-top disposal of bad guys (from a rooftop impaling in “Ricochet” to driving an explosives-filled SUV off a ferry in “Deja Vu” to turning into a demon-possessed cat in “Fallen.”

In “Equalizer 2,” Washington returns in his very first sequel as Robert McCall to righteously dispose of bad men and dispense kernels of life wisdom along the way. And while this outing never hits the peaks of kitchen-sink kitsch, director Antoine Fuqua still heads over the top and schedules the final showdown during a hurricane. 

But let’s back up a bit. McCall spends his days shuttling people around as a Lyft driver, where he can eavesdrop on their various issues and problems. At night, he goes into action mode, using his training to dispose of those whom he deems naughty. 

Repeating essentially the same formula as its predecessor, “Equalizer 2” opens the scope up a tad more, showing us McCall’s home life and his interaction with those in his apartment complex as well as his former co-workers who still have skin in the spy game. The result never ceases to be entertaining, but also feels overstuffed with plot.

It also takes away from the first film’s lighter touch as it veers into more “serious” territory by including drugs, the Holocaust, and natural disasters in the mix. That said, Washington is, as always, ever-engaging, playing things a bit looser than before (after breaking multiple bones among a group of white-color dude-bros, he insists they leave him a good Lyft rating). 

It plays like a geriatric “John Wick,” with less flash and panache, but not without its own erratic vibe. It’s just enough to make us curious as to where the next chapter where take him, and hope that the director relies more on Washington’s charisma than cramming in more plot to equalize the action.

  • Rob is the head of the English and Communications Department at Delaware Technical Community College, where he teaches film. He is also one of the founders of the Rehoboth Beach Film Society and is lead entertainment writer for Influx Magazine. Email him at filmrob@gmail.com.