Film Review: Denzel Washington in ‘The Equalizer 2’

Variety | 7/20/2018 | Peter Debruge
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It’s a credit to Denzel Washington’s career choices that he’s gone four decades without making a single sequel. That’s not to say that breaking the pattern with “The Equalizer 2” means he’s finally sold out (plenty of stars rely on franchises to balance out riskier one-off ventures), but nor does this particular project demonstrate much of a reason to justify wanting to return to the character of Robert McCall, other than a chance to work with “Training Day” director Antoine Fuqua for the fourth time.

Thing is, until Part 2 came along to top it, “The Equalizer” was a uniquely unpleasant action movie: a brutal, patience-testing bloodbath in which bad guys did nasty things to blue-collar Boston folks while dirty (white) cops looked the other way, only to have a single concerned citizen stand up and give them a taste of their own medicine. McCall politely knocked on the Russian mafia’s front door, offered to buy a battered hooker’s freedom, and when they refused the offer, he rammed a shot glass into one guy’s eye socket and a corkscrew into another’s lower jaw. Later, he hanged a thug with barbed wire and shot another five times with a nail gun. Fun times.

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“The Equalizer” climaxed with its villain screaming an incredulous, “Who arrrre you?” before taking a fatal blow to the neck. It was a fair question. Neither Fuqua nor screenwriter Richard Wenk (also back on this film) had bothered to provide much in the way of backstory for the character, an erstwhile government assassin turned vigilante. We could see that McCall had lost his wife, that he was paging his way through 100 essential novels in her memory, and that the only two people he could trust were a folksy couple played by Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo...
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