The Equalizer 2

 

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In his first sequel, Denzel Washington adds colour and texture to his OCD avenger in Antoine Fuqua’s gripping character study.

 

Equalizer 2 

Two films, two guns: Denzel Washington

 

In a career spanning 47 movies, Denzel Washington has never made a sequel. Now, however, he returns to the character of the OCD avenger Robert McCall. And there’s a reason: this concentrated, suspenseful character study is even better than the original. If Antoine Fuqua’s The Equalizer (2014), based on the 1985-1989 TV series with Edward Woodward, was a stylish, guilty pleasure, then Fuqua’s follow-up is a skilfully plotted, meticulously crafted thriller that builds to a thoroughly satisfying climax. In short, it’s a work of art.

 

In a nod to the first film, Fuqua’s The Equalizer 2 opens, of all places, on a train hurtling through Turkey. There we find Denzel with a full chin beard, white taqiyah cap and complete Muslim regalia, reading a copy of Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me (McCall likes his books). Within minutes he has cornered his prey and set matters to rights according to his own inimitable design. The prologue reminds us that a small gang of well-armed thugs are no match for McCall, who has already made an inventory of his arsenal by scanning the railway carriage for anything not bolted in place. It’s amazing what can kill a man in the right hands.

 

Robert McCall is a former Marine and erstwhile spy for the DIA, an auxiliary intelligence service of the US government, and he has his regrets. He now works as a Boston cab driver and becomes attached to his clientele, while still keeping up with his old associates. His closest ally is perhaps Susan Plummer (fellow Oscar-winner Melissa Leo), who reminds him that, “I’m the only friend you’ve got.”

 

Of course, this is not true, and we come to know the other people in McCall’s life, from an elderly Holocaust survivor (Orson Bean) to a young art student, Miles Whittaker (Ashton Sanders), who is hanging out with the wrong kind of people. All this is rendered in a most engaging fashion, drawing on the actor’s own innate charisma. However, the director is savvy enough to punctuate McCall’s genial routine with a cut to Brussels, Belgium, where we witness a horrific act of violence that we know will come to involve our protagonist. Likewise, Fuqua – working from a screenplay by the prolific Richard Wenk – slips in seemingly extraneous details that eventually add ballast to the final act. The film is rich with allusion and narrative minutiae, helping to build McCall’s world and character, from the décor of his apartment to the books he reads (Between the World and Me is a treatise on the entrenched racism of the US). In fact, at one point he insists that Miles reads a copy in return for a monetary transaction.

 

Like many of Denzel Washington’s most successful pictures, The Equalizer 2 is a generic piece, but it’s one that adds heft and colour to the brand.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, Orson Bean, Jonathan Scarfe, Sakina Jaffrey, Adam Karst, Tamara Hickey.

 

Dir Antoine Fuqua, Pro Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Denzel Washington, Alex Siskin, Steve Tisch, Antoine Fuqua, Mace Neufeld, Tony Eldridge and Michael Sloan, Screenplay Richard Wenk, Ph Oliver Wood, Pro Des Naomi Shohan, Ed Conrad Buff, Music Harry Gregson-Williams, Costumes Jenny Gering.

 

Columbia Pictures/Escape Artists/Zhiv Productions/Mace Neufeld Productions/Picture Farm-Sony Pictures.

120 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 17 August 2018. Cert. 15.