Review: "The Equalizer 2" is Denzel Washington's Worst Movie


Denzel Washington and Tony Scott had a special working relationship that was built up and founded with 1995's "Crimson Tide." Their creative teaming would unearth a slew of Denzel/Scott film during the aughts: with 2004's "Man on Fire," 2006's "Deja Vu," 2009''s "The Taking of Pelham  123," and, finally, 2010's "Unstoppable." Scott died in 2012 as he and Tom Cruise were scouting locations for a "Top Gun" sequel. 

All of this to say that Denzel, a guy that was banking on Scott for two decades with his action movie choices, no longer had that reliable director to work with. Whether you liked their work or not, it was unique and very much of a product its own creative voice.

Denzel attempts to replace Scott with Antoine Fuqua, a director very much influenced by Scott's kinetic editing style, have misfired. Fuqua and Denzel teamed up to bring the actor Oscar glory in 2001 with "Training Day." However, since then, forget about it. They, teamed-up for 2014's "The Equalizer," and failed to hit the right notes in their 2015 remake of "The Magnificent Seven."

And now, here we are, it's 2018, Fuqua and Denzel have decided to unleash "The Equalizer 2," a sequel that, I guess merited to be made in this day and age of Hollywood sequels, prequels and reboots. Given the original's $192 Million intakes at the box-office, on a paltry $50 million budget, might I add, it was a no-brainer decision for this project to be greenlit. 

Suffice to say, the little expectations I had for the film, were not even met. "The Equalizer 2" is a formulaic, "Taken"-style narrative that is implausible almost every step of the way. Once the climactic sequence started I just didn't care. 

Denzel’s Robert McCall, a former CIA black-ops assassin who’s now living in Boston and works as a Lyft driver, is a freelance guardian angel of sorts. McCall uses information provided to him by his former intelligence associate (as played by Melissa Leo) to deliver justice to criminals. However, not too long after giving McCall new intel, Leo's character is quickly disposed of under suspicious circumstances.  McCall eventually finds out there was a whole conspiracy behind her murder, he takes down the names and goes on a hunting expedition.

"The Equalizer 2" is espionage at its absolute cinematic worst. McCall, just like in the first movie, isn't a character that can be humanized by the screenwriter Richard Wenk. McCall’s decision to be an Avenger is delivered to us by Fuqua as an act of atonement, but what is McCall atoning for exactly? What inner demons does he have to go through this chaotic mess? As the bodies begin to pile up, and McCall's super-human strengths continue to improve over the course of this meandering 129-minute film, the distancing between movie and audience continues to gradually widen.

Maybe "The Equalizer 2" is a film that, after all, just shouldn't take itself so seriously. At least the original showed a flawed, aging human being that retired from the game, character background that is nevertheless still thin but represents much better screenwriting than in this movie. In fact, it feels like Fuqua threw out the rules of the first installment and decided to tackle a different character, but still played by Denzel Washington and; While we're at it, let's stamp the movie with an "Equalizer 2" in its title and sell it as a sequel. 

Yes, the film represents a step back in the cinematic food chain. Even for a summer movie. Instead of insisting that what we're watching on-screen is nothing more than empty brain candy, Fuqua tries to turn McCall into a modern, self-serious superhero with a "specific set of deadly skills." Oh, and least I mention, the obvious-looking stunt double in the film's finale, subbing for Denzel is a disgrace to the genre. It does show how much care and thought was actually brought into making this ludicrous film. 

As for Denzel, well, let's just say, I decided to take a look at his strong, four-decade filmography and couldn't, for the life of me, find a worse movie that he has done in his entire career than "The Equalizer 2." Yes, this is worse than 1990's abysmal Heart Condition. [D]