The Equalizer 2 begins on a train to Istanbul. Denzel Washington, wearing a skullcap and beard, is reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between The World And Me. Soon after, he murders a couple of very bad Turkish men.
It’s an absurd opening that promises something glorious. A movie that follows Denzel around the globe as he dons disguises and beats people up sounds great. Alas, this is not that movie.
Instead we head back to the States, where he spends his time driving a Lyft (enabling a pretty staggering amount of product placement), bonding with his neighbours, and beating the snot out of some wealthy rapists (the most enjoyable scene if cathartic violence is your thing). After about an hour, a plot kicks in.
Antoine Fuqua gives the film a similar palette to the first – it’s drab, downright ugly in places, as befits the subject matter. He also seems to be on autopilot much of the time. Shots are unmotivated, but worst of all the action is sloppy and hard to follow. There’s the suggestion of horrific violence but it’s never clearly shown, and in a movie aiming for pulpy thrills, that’s a bad thing.
In the first Equalizer, Denzel joined the club of ‘serious’ actors who veered into action late in their careers. Liam Neeson is fine, but Denzel radiates quiet dignity, and it was so much fun watching him wail on dudes. And it still is. And he’s still a great actor, commanding the screen even when he’s just making soup, let alone wandering into a room full of gangsters, guns drawn.
The Equalizer 2 ends up feeling hollow, though. Puzzling even. It’s a bit of a hodgepodge, a series of scenes that mostly work quite well, but don’t add up to anything satisfying.