After rescuing an adorable blonde white girl from some shady looking foreign types, all American hero Robert McCall solves more problems around his neighbourhood with brutal violence. Good natured, uncomplicated characters are introduced until one of them is murdered setting McCall off on another path of bloody vengeance.
McCall works as an Uber driver which allows him access to society and prey, very much like a 21st Century Travis Bickle. McCall however experiences no angst in relation to his avenging. His enemies are all cartoons of modern villainy. A bunch of rich rapists, a gang of Turkish kidnappers and a good ol’ fashioned street gang from Bronson times. A missed opportunity for self-awareness sees the young Boy McCall has taken under his wing being encouraged by a vicious street gang to carry out the very same “Eye for an Eye” justice of which McCall is so fond. He fails to recognise this and instead rescues the boy at gun point and gives him a lesson about opportunity, also at gunpoint.
Just like the Death Wish or Taken movies, this bile letting exercise leaves a sour taste in the mouth. We’re invited to hate McCall’s victims and rejoice as he doles out sweet, horrific justice. Although many, if not most, action films ask us to suspend any concerns one may have for fair process or proportionate response in favour of gratification and simplistic moral validation, movies like ‘The Equaliser 2’ feel mean spirited. It’s hard to say why something like John Wick (in which Keanu murders the population of a small town over a puppy) is by contrast so enjoyable. It can only be the lack of camp or fun and the severity of the crimes on display (rape, child abduction, etc.) suggest a form of sermonising is occurring in this violent action thriller.
The action sequences are short brutal exchanges that are choppily cut. I do have admit an admiration for the location of the final showdown. The wind-swept, rain drenched abandoned coastal town makes for an entertaining playground. As the four antagonists explore the environment, the film is suddenly a slasher flick. The Audience eagerly anticipates how the brutal killer will dispatch his prey. Though unlike many slasher films, this feels sadistic rather than masochistic.
Denzel Washington inexplicably returns to the role and brings with him a significant, if inconsistently utilised, charm that sees him gel with fellow performers Melissa Leo and Ashton Sanders to great effect. There are some memorable human moments between the players, all unfortunately in favour of a very conventional narrative.
None of which to say the story is perfunctory, it’s far too overwrought to be considered utilitarian. McCall has several bloody plates spinning by the film’s midpoint, none of which are obvious candidates for being the film’s main story. Having finished the film, I’m still not entirely sure why the inciting incident actually happened. A minor detail ultimately. What’s important is that the f-ed with the wrong guy this time!
The Equaliser 2 benefits from a committed performance by Denzel Washington and an interesting finale, but lacklustre action and an uninspired script make this a very conventional and underwhelming action thriller.