The Equalizer 2, directed by Antoine Fuqua, is a film with no tension, no suspense, no moment that thrills the senses or engages the mind. It is a film that holds within it… nothing. As someone who doesn’t like deconstructing a film purely on negative points; someone who tries to find the good in films and celebrate a medium of art that I adore and obsess over, I am going to severely struggle with this review, as there is truly no positive point that I can find to talk about. So, let’s make our way into a review that I won’t enjoy writing, and talk about a film I did not enjoy.
Robert McCall – played by Denzel Washington – is back and this time his version of justice takes a turn as it’s now personal. After a close friend is attacked and murdered, McCall employs all of his many skills to track down and kill the people who took away someone he cared deeply about, but he might not like who he discovers to be behind it.
From the very beginning, The Equalizer 2 starts off wrong. It’s first act is a poorly paced, clumsily handled start that at no point pulls you in and entices you with a hopefully engaging or intriguing story. Nothing is set up in a way that would have you wanting to follow McCall deeper into his unravelling story. The film meanders from one empty scene to another and the worrying realisation that it’s a 120-minute film you’re about to have to sit through becomes all more apparent.
I was shocked at just how unengaging the beginning of this film was. It felt like a significant amount of time was passing with nothing being introduced or established. It never felt like it was leading into a compelling story or a point of conflict for the main character that would then result in an exciting film. Scene after scene of Robert McCall just going about his daily life dragged on. I fully accept you need to ground the character and show us the point he’s at in his life before you introduce the conflict that will lead to him bashing in faces and breaking bones, but the length of time that was spent doing it – with no worthwhile results – is a large factor in why the film goes onto offer nothing that ever has you thrilled or eager to keep watching.
And so, once the film finally begins to dive into a noticeable plot and begin to introduce elements that will hopefully make for an actual film – and not just snapshots of an old man’s life – you end up getting a very standard, predictable plot that only intensifies that disinterest and boredom. Had I been wearing a watch, I would have spent an unfortunate amount of time looking at it and counting the minutes until I knew I could be done with the film and go about the rest of my day.
The plot itself isn’t helped by the fact that there are no characters to drive it. Take the film’s antagonist for example (I won’t specifically name them as it is a spoiler) their entire motivation is one we’ve seen many, many times before. It is such an uninspired motivation that then fuels a character who has no other point of interest to them that from a plot standpoint, one of the primary points for pulling you in and making you care about why the conflict for Robert is happening is weak and uninteresting before its even got going.
I remember the moment when the antagonist was revealed, and they began their bad-guy monologue, and being able to see the entire breadth of his character right then and there, and just how insignificant and unoriginal it was. It’s almost as if there was a checklist of clichés in front of the writer of this film and he thought he was to put them all in rather than avoid them.
But there are plenty of examples of a film having a weak villain with trite sensibilities and it still being able to overcome that and be entertaining – Marvel has built an entire universe of films that do this – even the first Equalizer film overcame this issue to an extent. But something a film can’t come back from is when its primary character; the person who brings us in and makes us care about everything we’re about to experience… is an empty void.
I can’t think of a defining trait or a memorable moment that went into growing Robert McCall into an interesting character. Usually when you have the opportunity at a sequel, with a character who has the possibility to be hiding unseen layers to them, you take full advantage of that and you grow the character in a new way; explore facets of them that reveal a whole other side to them and have us see the character in a whole new light. Well, The Equalizer 2 did none of that.
Robert McCall is a character who does not change in any way. He is simply a stationary character who is no different at the end of the film compared to who he was in the beginning. Which is strange, because the inciting incident is a very personal one for Robert and one that should take him to an emotionally charged place, but with how he reacts, you wouldn’t know he ever had any sort of connection to the person who is killed. Robert McCall is a character who becomes impossible to connect with or care about, because not only is he a seemingly infallible individual, but he is also an emotionally shutoff person who you can’t find a human connection with.
This left me feeling distant and removed from the film, as I had nothing to draw me in and make me care about the people on the screen. If you don’t care about the characters and you have nothing that makes you understand them or relate to them, then when the time comes when they’re in danger, you sit there passively watching, waiting for it to be over.
And I’m shocked to say that a factor in Robert McCall being such a distant character lies in the catatonic performance by Denzel Washington. The first Equalizer film was an okay action film – one that was elevated by the on-screen presence of Denzel Washington. In my mind he made that film so much more than what it was. That is not the case in this film. He seemed to be sleepwalking through this film. Delivering a performance that is some of his most forgettable work. Now, it could be said that the fault actually lies with the script, which gives Washington nothing to do except participate in bland dialogue, but I feel a decision on that is fairly subjective. Either way, the problem plays its part in further fuelling the empty nothingness of this film.
So a film with no engaging plot, no characters to excite you and an overall dullness that permeates throughout the film, you’d hope you could still gain some enjoyment from the action, but I’m sorry to say that not even that can save this film from being completely forgettable.
There was a single solitary scene in which I enjoyed the action (it saw McCall fighting off an assassin in his car). Pretty much all of the film is flat shots filled with shaky cam and incoherent editing. In a time where films like John Wick: Chapter 2 or Mission: Impossible – Fallout show what Hollywood and the creators of those films are capable of when they put time and effort into creating some truly awe-inspiring action, a film like The Equalizer 2 just looks tiered and lazy. A scene where McCall dips in and out of houses while being hunted by four elite special forces soldiers all while a tropical storm rages around them should be a collection of moments full of suspense and clever tactics, but instead it is a mind-numbingly dull time where I found myself wanting it to be over, as I knew we were near the end of the film.
I went into this film hopeful of a solid, entertaining action film that satisfied that action itch I always have nagging at me. I felt the first one did this exactly. Not only was Denzel Washington a large factor in why I was hopeful, but the film’s director, Antoine Fuqua, is someone whose work I’ve enjoyed for some time. Unfortunately, this film left me extremely disappointed and I’m sad to say this might be Fuqua’s worst work to date, and that’s saying something, because I sat through all of The Magnificent Seven remake and that was a terrible film. Currently, The Equalizer 2 is jockeying for position with Ant-Man and the Wasp for being the worst film I’ve seen in 2018, minus a few others which may end up taking the unwanted top spot.
I think it’s pretty clear at this point that I DO NOT recommend, The Equalizer 2. I truly can’t think of one positive element to this film that would ever make it worth seeing. To take the time and make the effort to go to the cinema and sit through this would be a tremendous waste of your precious hours. But if you do find yourself going to see The Equalizer 2, I hope you have a better time with it than I did.
I’m really interested to know what you thought of The Equalizer 2, and my review of it. So please leave any feedback, opinions, etc. in the comments section down below. If you liked what you read here and are feeling kind, may I ask that you consider following both/either my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings? I’ll stop nattering at you now and bring things to a close by offering you my thanks for taking some of your time and dedicating it towards by silly little blog. Thank you and have a great day!