EQUALIZER 2, THE
Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) serves an unflinching justice for the exploited and oppressed, but how far will he go when that is someone he loves?
Review by Louise Keller:
There was something special about the 2014 original gritty thriller from Training Day director Antoine Fuqua. It was different. Based on the 80s TV series, the key point of difference was that its leading man Denzel Washington (assuming the Edward Woodward role as McCall), was a good man doing bad things. Because he could. A former CIA agent whose keen sense of observation and strong humanity inspired him to right wrongs. It was all about character and the storyline was linear. His zen demeanour was a sharp contradiction to the gruesome violence resulting from his need to right wrongs. In other words, there was heart and soul beyond the blood.
Four years later, McCall is back with the same director, screenwriter, star, composer and production designer. But this is a very different film.
Let me say from the outset, that I did enjoy the film. It's gritty, dramatic, powerful and tense. There is a satisfying pay off and Washington is as good as ever. However, the film has lost much of what made it unique. By the end it could be Die Hard or Dirty Harry. My main criticism lies in the screenplay, which seems to drag in the first reel. It's a slow burn and patience is required for the various story strands to come together. These include an assortment of passengers he meets in his role as an Uber driver in Boston, an elderly Holocaust survivor (Orson Bean) and Miles (Ashton Sanders), an Afro American teenager who wants to paint, but finds himself heading for the wrong side of the tracks. The latter is the relationship about which we care.
The cinematic opening Bond-esque Istanbul train sequence is visually and conceptually fabulous, working well as a lead into the exposition. Washington has a soulful presence throughout and by the time we are in his coastal Massachusetts hometown for the climactic final encounter with his former CIA colleague (Pedro Pascal, excellent), the tension has built to a fever pitch. The powerful storm in which they meet - with its unpredictability, pounding waves and forceful winds - may be dramatic, but somehow the location in the context of the characters never seems quite right. The scene involving photographs of McCall's former CIA handler (Melissa Leo) that suddenly appear in the cyclonic conditions, is ridiculous. Harry Gregson-Williams' growling soundscape and score forms a suitably dark underbelly to the disturbing narrative, punctuated by graphic violence.
On its own terms, this sequel works well, albeit a shadow of the original.
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EQUALIZER 2, THE (MA15+)
CAST: Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo
PRODUCER: Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Tony Eldridge, Antoine Fuqua, Mace Neufeld, Alex Siskin, Steve Tisch, Denzel Washington
DIRECTOR: Antoine Fuqua
SCRIPT: Richard Wenk
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Oliver Wood
EDITOR: Conrad Buff IV
MUSIC: Harry Gregson-Williams
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Naomi Shohan
RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Releasing
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 19, 2018