Review: The Equalizer 2

Nearly four years after former CiA agent Robert McCall destroyed a Russian crime syndicate in The Equalizer, he’s back in The Equalizer 2… a Lyft driver.

The story picks up sometime after the events in The Equalizer with McCall (Denzel Washington) living in Boston and driving for Lyft. Outside of McCall being a friend with a car whenever you need one, he’s helping people in need. His “help” includes taking an elderly man to his appointments, murdering men on a train in Turkey, and giving a group of dude bros compound fractures.

After a brief catch up with the world’s deadliest Lyft driver, the story picks up when McCall’s old boss Susan (Melissa Leo) is murdered. He spends the rest of the film hunting or the men responsible for her death.

If you’ve seen The Equalizer or watched any action movie made in the past 40 years, you recognize this plot is set up for McCall to feast on a buffet of violence. It’s literally the plot for every revenge film ever made.

The movie does try to shoehorn in a side story about one of his Lyft passengers, a holocaust survivor, and a missing painting.

There’s also a My Mentor is a Hitman side story involving McCall and a young man in his apartment complex named Miles (Moonlight’s Ashton Sanders). Miles is a talented artist with one foot in the drug game. McCall does his best to mentor this young man and keep him in school and off the streets.

All of these good deeds are fine IF they weren’t sandwiched between McCall breaking someone’s collarbone or shooting a man at point blank range. It’s hard to take him as the killer with the heart of gold because he does soooooo much killing. His life is 80% killing, 15% good deeds, and 5% asking for five star ratings from his passengers.

The side stories are what weigh down the film. Director Antoine Fuqua is great at shooting action scenes. The attack on Susan is a solid action sequence, the fight on the train is great, and even the very predictable final showdown is entertaining. The acts of violence and random acts of violence are the best parts of this film. They’re the best scripted, best shot, and most entertaining.

When the story pivots back to McCall trying to save Miles, it drags. The scene when he has a face-to-face with Miles feels like a scene from Fences or Remember the Titans. It’s the kind of intense Denzel the film needs, yet it feels out of place in a story about a man on a murderous rampage.

It’s such a treat to see Denzel act and even a better treat to see him casually kill people in a newsboy cap. He carries every scene with minimal effort. Denzel’s charm and swagger are what keep this from being another mediocre action film.

For example, the best scene involves McCall confronting the men who killed Susan. It’s not violent; it’s just Denzel casually telling the men what he plans to do them. He wears that signature smile and charisma the entire scene while explaining how he’s going to kill the men he’s talking to.  Denzel sells that entire monologue by making it hilarious and chilling at the same time.

The Equalizer 2 has some bright spots but is slowed down by side stories and unnecessary characters. The story drags 15-20 minutes longer than it needs because of the excess baggage. Denzel alone sells this franchise. Surrounding him with nameless goons to snipe would’ve been a better use of the film’s runtime. They could’ve at least given us a montage of Denzel hunting down Lyft passengers that gave him a one star rating.

Grade: B-