Robert McCall (Denzel Washington), disguised to look like a Muslim, rides a train to Turkey where he stalks a man who kidnapped his own daughter from her American mother. McCall makes short work of the man’s goons and convinces him to do what’s right and give the girl back. That’s because Robert McCall is still in the business of helping people out of dangerous situations (although there is no mention or callback to the online “Equalizer” ad he posted at the end of the first film). He’s once again living a quiet life – this time as a Lyft driver – where he’s an avid reader and a good friend/neighbor to those around him.
He tries to keep a young artist stay out of a gangbanging life, helps an elderly man in his journey for a painting of his long-lost sister, rebuilds the apartment community he lives in, and has dinners with his friend FBI Agent Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo).
When Susan is killed while looking into a double homicide involving a fellow FBI agent, Robert McCall dives into the case she was on to figure out why she was killed and who did it. His investigation brings him to his old friend and Susan’s partner Dave (Pedro Pascal). Together, they put the pieces together about who may have been behind the hit – until someone tries to kill Robert and he learns the truth is not just a simple cover-up, but a full-blown conspiracy! And this time, he’s not giving anyone the choice to walk away.
The Equalizer 2 has some great closed quarter combat scenes – in a train dining car, in a hotel room, in an apartment complex, and even in a moving car on the freeway. There’s also a really cool set piece for the final showdown. And, of course, Denzel Washington is simply magnetic in his performance, which is also – incredibly – his first ever sequel.
Sadly, that’s all there is good to say about this movie.
The pacing is unbearably slow. Those few fight scenes I mentioned above are the only action scenes, and because Robert McCall is that damn good, he ends all the fights in under 30 seconds no matter how many people he has to fight! There’s this long lagging sequence that runs most of the film, where he’s dealing with the variety of side stories that are meant to be character building but just come across as time wasting fluff!
After giving it some thought, this movie plays out a bit like an open world video game… there’s the main story that unravels as time goes on, but it’s constantly interrupted by all the side missions you can do along the way as you’re trying to unlock 100% completion. It’s there, but it really doesn’t need to be.
Because of the constant insertion of side plots, the movie overall felt like a jumbled mess, forcing all these side stories to coexist in a 2-hour runtime. It would’ve benefited from a more streamlined approach. Give me a little character building, and just one main plot to follow. If you can fit in a secondary plot, great, but it shouldn’t take away from the main story. I’d have hoped that returning writer Richard Wenk (The Mechanic, The Magnificent Seven remake) and director Antoine Fuqua (Shooter, Olympus Has Fallen) would have done a better job in making this a more manageable film. It was like they had so many ideas on what the sequel should be that they couldn’t decide and just used all of them instead.
I was also very disappointed by cinematographer Oliver Wood (Anchorman 2, Jack Reacher 2, the Ben-Hur remake). Most of the film looked fine, but then there would be these random artsy choices (like a close-up handheld shot or the image being upside down as a character walked by) that just broke up the flow and takes the audience out of the story wondering why we’re looking at this action in this strange new way.
I was really hoping to like The Equalizer 2, since (like most people) I really enjoyed the first movie and always love watching Denzel Washington do his thing. Unfortunately, it just missed the mark in almost every way. There’s still a few fun moments worth cheering for, but overall it just wasn’t that good.