Is this long-awaited follow up to the first Equalizer action movie? No. As far as I was concerned The Equalizer was a completely self-contained film that needed no follow up, the story of Robert McCall had been told.
The Equalizer was a story of a meticulous, obsessive-compulsive, former Black Ops commando who finds himself pulled back into the life. It examines his hero complex in not only the central storyline involving Russian gangsters and their child prostitution ring, including his friend Teri.
It also sees McCall needing to get involved in the lives of his colleagues Ralphie, whose mother’s business is being extorted, and Jenny, who during a robbery at the hardware superstore is relieved of a ring belonging to her mother.
There is no surprise, however, that a sequel was made in a world filled with never-ending sequels to films including the double figures of the Marvel Universe and The Fast and the Furious Franchise to name but two.
This is not to mention that The Equalizer was based on a television series of the same name that ran for four seasons from 1985, so there was plenty of material to work with.
It was unclear then, what the point of The Equalizer 2 was, other than a chance for Denzel Washington to reprise the role of McCall. There were several aspects of the sequel which made it appear more than just a further money spinner. This was Washington’s first sequel.
As well as that, both the director, Antoine Fuqua, and the writer, Richard Wenk, return for the sequel, a rarity in the Hollywood world where most films seem to get made having had numerous writers and directors attached during their production.
Unlike the first film, The Equalizer 2 has action from the get-go, opening on McCall sitting on a train through Turkey. It takes him little time to dispatch the target and his henchmen. The following scene of a mother being reunited with her young daughter explains that the target had kidnapped the daughter from his ex-wife to punish her.
There are inevitable similarities between the first film and the sequel, in the opening minutes of the film you see the new routines of McCall and his obsessive tendencies, now working as a taxi driver. Again, McCall is very sociable and friendly, making time for everyone, even brief acquaintances.
Early in the film, McCall meets a soldier in his taxi on his way to his first tour in Iraq. McCall offers to pick him up from the airport on his return. McCall continues as the self-appointed fixer, or equalizer if you will.
McCall’s taxi seems to be as much a source of income as a source of his own brand of justice. Much of the action in the opening half an hour is centered around characters McCall has met during his work, including a drugged-up girl who has clearly, though not explicitly, been assaulted.
McCall goes to the hotel room and deals out his own justice on the perpetrators. This scene is shot in the same way as the scene in the Russian restaurant from the first film.
The scene slows as McCall takes in the weapons and dangers within the room. As the assailant locks the door of the room, McCall starts the stopwatch on his wrist and proceeds to dispatch all six men in the room with ease.
What is important in this scene is that McCall refrains from asking for an explanation or seeking any sort of negotiation. McCall is more direct, more intense, more maligned by the world around him. He seems to have lost his trust in humanity.
The central story of The Equalizer 2 is the death of a long-time friend and colleague Susan Plummer and mourning of her husband Brian Plummer. McCall seeks out Dave York, who had been working on a case with Susan.
Running concurrently with that storyline is McCall trying to save another teenager who had gotten into the wrong crowd, like Teri in the first film, in the sequel it is Miles Whittaker who is finding himself being pulled into a gang.
There seems to be a greater emphasis on McCall’s skills of perception in the film, much greater use of McCall’s slow-motion danger awareness. At one-point McCall goes to the murder site Susan Plummer visited just before her murder.
McCall seems to sit amongst the dead bodies and more and more details about the events seem to come to him, or he seems to work out. There is a strange engagement from the viewer as if watching his calculated processes as if the viewer is given a window into the way that McCall’s brain works.
McCall’s quick one-liners are ever present throughout the film, whether its in the father-son relationship between himself and Miles or directed at an assailant, McCall’s humor continues to humanize the character and not only make the viewer root for him, but empathise, engage and even replicate him and his attitudes to right and wrong.
Like McCall himself, the film flows between almost everyday normality, patience, preparation and all-out action, indicative of his lifestyle. The moments before the action create the same tension in the audience as can be seen on the face of McCall and others around him.
This film, though decidedly similar to the first, is different. At first, I felt like McCall’s character was almost overlooked in The Equalizer 2, but as the film progressed, I felt like I was getting to know him even better.
The action is very similar in style to the first film, but if, like me, you like that style of action you will enjoy this film.
This is one of the very few cases where I feel like the sequel lives up to the original. There are not many movies you could get me to say that about.