Written by: Richard Wenk
Starring: Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo
Sequels serve as an opportunity to continue a well-liked story but mostly present another opportunity to milk the original story idea for more money. It also makes you take notice when a specific director or actor chooses not to engage with them throughout and then suddenly change course. This happens to be the case with Denzel Washington. With his storied career, he has never done a sequel until The Equalizer 2. You would think it must be something special for Washington to come back as this character but then you would be wrong.
Deciding to continue serving as a protector for the marginalized, Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) saves a kidnapped girl before learning about people in his neighborhood needing help. This all culminates in meeting up with an old friend to investigate the tragic death of Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo).
The greatest aspect of any superhero or someone like Robert McCall comes from saving those who lack power from those who wield it and are willing to forcefully impose it. The name of the title indicates as much and those scenes of evening the odds have such a great level of catharsis. This sequel could have honestly just been vignettes of McCall beating up bad guys who harm the marginalized. It’s what makes the opening scene so thrilling and when he assists a young woman who gets into his Lyft vehicle. Just keep those on repeat because nothing beats seeing McCall use the status symbols those in power flaunt against them in a physical manner. However, the film loses ground and momentum quickly when it decides to become about a conspiracy not worth focusing much on.
It all begins with Susan and Dave York (Pedro Pascal) investigating what appears to be a suicide of an important figure in the intelligence community. Following the initial investigation, Susan gets brutally murdered, which gets the attention of McCall. This reunites McCall with York, who were partners in the past as they try to figure out who did this to Susan and the larger game at play. You can probably discern exactly how the narrative will play out moving forward, as the many surprises they attempt to throw completely whiff because it all appeared to be quite obvious.
The greatest aspects of this film, much like the first Equalizer, came from the small operation McCall built in helping the people of the community. This sequel provides some of it with three different plotlines of individuals in his apartment complex he attempts to help in different ways. These moments speak to McCall’s compassion and this film would have been better served if they merely expanded these minor storylines into being more substantial. Instead, they all receive minimal time because we have to get back to the main plot with nothing interesting to really say thus leaving everything else underdeveloped.
Driving much of the appeal of the first film came from the promise of McCall fighting off baddies with the same tools the average dad would have in his tool shed and it certainly delivered on that front. You would hope this sequel would deliver more of it but it ultimately just feels so basic when it comes to the main plot. Yes, it gets to a point where McCall needs to take on a garrison of men single-handedly but it’s all things we’ve seen done before and more importantly, better. This film got its priorities wrong with trying to make it more of a spectacle when it lost sight of its most redeemable quality.
Denzel Washington never puts in a bad performance but I do wonder what made him come back to Robert McCall to do a sequel. Of all the great films he has created with the potential for follow-ups, this one being the one he chose to come back to seems odd considering the weakness of the story overall. Washington brings the same charm and fortitude anyone can expect from him and at least makes the drab sequences watchable.
The Equalizer 2 could have been a great story about the local neighborhood hero taking care of the local people, which it appears McCall wants to be. Unfortunately, this film gets caught in trying to be a larger story with big implications, which not only take away from its greatest aspects but also has no genuine intrigue in it. As a result, it feels predictable and boring. They would have been better off cutting out the entire A-plot and leaving everything else.