I’m enough of a fan of the original TV show “The Equalizer” to wish Antoine Fuqua had found a way to incorporate Stewart Copeland’s superb synth-driven theme tune into this modern reinterpretation. But my favourite part of the TV series was always the helping out of ‘the little guy’ rather than the bigger, over-arching spycraft arcs. It’s in this area that “The Equalizer 2” unexpectedly delights even as it leads to a slightly meandering story on screen.
Retired intelligence operative Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) has resumed his apparent quiet life, working as a Lyft driver while secretly helping out those who find themselves in trouble, powerless and threatened. But when his close friend and former colleague Susan Plummer (Susan Plummer), McCall’s drive for justice becomes deeply personal. Emerging from the shadows, he makes contact former partner Dave York (Pedro Pascal), who long thought him dead, in the hope that he can help him track down those responsible.
McCall is much more of an avenger in this movie than an equalizer as he seeks to exact brutal and bloody vengeance against those who have killed his friend and while that’s the core plot that drives the narrative forward, it’s ultimately the least interesting thread of the film. Far more engaging is his mentoring of a young resident of his apartment block who, though a talented artist, is being drawn in to a life of gangs, guns and drugs, his rescue of a kidnapped daughter or punishing the yuppies who have drugged and raped a young woman. It’s in these side quests that McCall’s patient, redemptive brand of vigilante justice really shines, underlining why the character worked so well in serialised television. Only the weirdly out-of-place “Long Lost Families” sub-plot falls flat, cute as it is.
Although some may find the narrative sluggish and unfocused as it juggles these disparate storylines while pushing forward the central story of an unknown force taking out key former members of the intelligence services, I enjoyed the patient, deliberate pacing that echoed its lead characters’ modus operandi. Washington is as reliable as ever, effortlessly conveying the immense control and lethality hidden by his softly spoken, gentle persona and when unleashed, Fuqua knows how to direct the explosive action for maximum onscreen impact.
Polished and professional, “The Equalizer 2” remains a classy action thriller, showcasing a hero who may favour intellect and redemption over assault and violence but, when push comes to shove is as rigorous in his vengeance as he is in his self-discipline. In a world of frenetic, ever-more elaborate action extravaganzas featuring fallible heroes who have to recover from their own clumsiness to save the day, “The Equalizer” series offers an alternative of Zen-like calm and ruthless efficiency that’s very welcome.