The Equalizer 2

The Equalizer 2 (** ½) R

It’s hard to fathom that in the five-decade career of actor Denzel Washington, his latest film is the first time he’s appeared in a sequel. And before you let that fact sink in I’ll go on the record and say that if Washington felt he just had to appear in a sequel he could do a lot worse than The Equalizer 2. In spite of a tendency toward warmed-over plot elements that we’ve seen many times in films of this type there’s much to like in what is certain to be a crowd pleaser, if nothing else. It’s also one of the rare second helpings in that it possesses a slight edge, in terms of quality, over its immediate predecessor.

In my review of the original 2014 film, which received two stars out of four from yours truly, I noted that it’s a bit of surprise that The Equalizer was even considered as fodder for a feature film. The basis for the film was a short-lived TV series from the late 80s that most people have forgotten. It’s an even bigger surprise that it received a second helping but of course box office receipts have a lot of power when it comes to what gets financed or doesn’t. The Equalizer 2 is no exception.

Denzel in The Equalizer 2. Don’t mess with him, ever.

Robert McCall (Washington), in case you don’t remember or didn’t see the first installment, is a man with a bit of a shady past. He’s a widower and a former employee of a military style organization who now uses his knowledge to settle scores when he determines the scales of justice to be out of whack. In the first film he took on Russian mobsters and this time he’s out for revenge and it goes without saying that neither of those plots are very unique in the action genre.

There are really two plots at work in The Equalizer 2. There’s what I like to refer to as the A plot, wherein McCall sets out for vengeance after a former colleague comes to harm for having a little too much knowledge concerning a recent gangland style killing. This plot point is generic stuff and feels like the kind of material that would not have been out of place on a late 80s crime show.

Where the film really shines is in the B plot, which concerns McCall attempting to steer a teen away from street gangs and helping the kid to instead embrace his artistic talents.  Denzel gets to do what he does best in his scenes with the youngster. In fact he’s so good I was willing to forgive the film for its ridiculous turn at the end when both story threads connect in the midst of a hurricane. Since these films seem to get better each time out perhaps I’ll be able to recommend the next one should it see the light of day.

The Equalizer opens today at the AMC Hickory complex.

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