The Equalizer 2 (2 stars)

The Equalizer 2

Denzel Washington keeps things watchable in this so-so sequel

The 2014 big screen take on the Edward Woodward TV show transferred little but the central character's name – Robert McCall – and the notion of an ex-special ops agent who uses his skills to help the downtrodden. The star-power of Denzel Washington, a dour, considered atmosphere and a gleeful delight in physical mutilation helped Antoine Fuqua's thriller find a large audience for its high-minded philosophy mixed with thuggish thrills, making this uninspired sequel a reality in the process.

McCall (Washington) now works as a Lyft driver in Boston, Massachusetts – a vantage point from which he, like Travis Bickle, views the pain caused to victims of criminals. McCall occasionally avenges some unfortunates, but risks blowing his humble cover-story when his black-ops handler from the first film, Susan (Melissa Leo), is murdered in Brussels. McCall sets out to find her killer, while taking vulnerable young painter Miles (Moonlight's Ashton Sanders) under his wing to protect him from gangs.

The selling point of The Equalizer franchise is that McCall is both a role model (a good neighbour, studious reader and fastidious housekeeper) and an unflinching death machine who can smash a harpoon clean through an unwitting henchman with ease. While the main story is minimal, the narrative is embellished with various crowdpleasing side missions in which McCall dispenses instant street justice to minor social miscreants. It's a hypocritical position, preaching noble virtue while delivering cheap thrills, none of which are as memorable as the Home Depot finale of the original – here replaced with a murky mid-hurricane showdown that lacks visual punch or clarity.

Washington's low-key Sidney Poitier impression keeps The Equalizer 2 watchable, but only just; after four films with Fuqua, it's time for him to find a collaborator interested in making something more challenging than these childish, retrograde, wish fulfillment fantasies.

General release from Fri 17 Aug.

The Equalizer 2

  • 2 stars
  • 2018
  • US
  • 2h 2min
  • Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
  • Cast: Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Bill Pullman

Robert McCall (Washington) works as a Lyft driver in Boston but when his black-ops handler (Leo) is murdered, he sets out to find her killer. Uninspired sequel which hypocritically preaches noble virtue while dispensing cheap thrills and physical mutilation.