Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo
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“…builds on the low-flash action chops of the original to bring us more of the good stuff…”
Between the monopoly of Marvel Studios and the ever-present bro meme that is the Fast & Furious franchise, bombast is the name of the game for most action flicks nowadays. The bigger, the more populated, the more patently ludicrous, the better. Of course, as is with any defined standard in the industry, there exist productions that take a decidedly different direction to the norm. Antoine Fuqua’s 2014 effort The Equalizer is one of them, and thankfully, this continuation follows suit.
The production operates in a similar fashion to the titular character: It’s methodical and knows when to take its time. Through Denzel’s incredibly stoic performance, the character of former CIA operative Robert McCall tends to make serious connections with those around him. Through very natural and hearty conversation courtesy of writer Richard Wenk (The Expendables 2, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back), Bob interacts with some interesting faces. The street artist surrounded by crime, played charmingly by Ashton Sanders; the Holocaust survivor trying to reclaim a piece of his pre-war life, played endearingly by Orson Bean; even Bob’s former brother-in-arms Dave, brought roaring to life on screen through Pedro Pascal’s delivery. Through each encounter, we see Bob driven by a definite moral compass to try and improve the lives of those around him. He isn’t directed by any exterior forces, but rather his own sense of right and wrong. If you do wrong, he’ll give you a chance to make it right… and if you know what’s good for you, you better take it.
Because of this, the compacted and highly visceral action beats make an even grander impression. Fuqua’s brand of thrills is one built on maximising damage while minimising flashiness, and when things get feisty, it can be incredibly graphic at times. Blood sprays, improvised weaponry (Bob effectively cuts someone down to size using only a credit card at one point), intestines hanging out of a perp’s stomach; hope you have a good stomach for gore, because you will certainly get it. And yet, it never feels exploitative or that blood and guts are the only reason we’re here. Instead, through Denzel’s efficient performance and the writing that surrounds him, it serves more as a means to depict Bob’s set of morals. He not only has true conviction in his own sense of morality, he is more than willing to exact his own brand of righteousness on those who do wrong. And before anyone thinks that the brutality of his methods and the absolutism of his morals are at odds with each other, the film covers that as well to make for a surprisingly nuanced take on human morality.
The Equalizer 2 builds on the low-flash action chops of the original to bring us more of the good stuff, adding more layers and textures to this story’s form of natural justice to give it a reason to exist and thrive. A storm’s approaching, and it’s carrying Proust in one hand and a harpoon gun in the other.