The Equalizer 2
With each new Antoine Fuqua stinker, the lack of resemblance to Training Day solidifies the latter’s status as a fluke. Now with The Equalizer 2, it’s time to question if the director actually had a hand in his 2001 breakthrough or received significant assistance from unnamed parties with legitimate talent.
Much like the 2014 series starter and his subsequent pointless Magnificent Seven remake, the filmmaker delivers another absolute snoozer with Denzel Washington, who must feel some sort of obligation to the man credited with shepherding him to his first Best Actor Academy Award and/or not have a problem getting easy paychecks for legacy-diluting work.
After the encouraging one-two punch of Fences and Roman J. Israel, Esq., Washington slums it a second time as former ace assassin Robert McCall, who’s translated his skills to serve those who suffer at the hands of the presumed untouchable elite and provide other Boy Scout services as needed.
Earning a living as a Lyft driver in Boston, Robert’s backseat passengers consistently and conveniently offer up important details about their lives, typically over the phone, thereby offering corny validation for his code.
His commitment to the betterment of those who deserve it manifests most clearly in his attempts to steer his artistic teenage neighbor Miles (Ashton Sanders, Moonlight) away from a life of crime, but when past colleagues start getting knocked off and attempts are made on his own life, and he sets off to eliminate those threats in predictably dull fashion.
The Round Two absence of The Equalizer co-star Chloë Grace Moretz is a relief, but Robert’s precision killing that brought a brief jolt to the start of that film before being abandoned is likewise M.I.A. here, thereby plunking the sequel into even less stylized Fuqua territory than usual.
Of course, he thinks he’s adding directorial flourishes with brief camera movements, an upside down vantage point and setting a camera on the shoulder of a gun-toting villain, but none of the choices add anything to the moment beyond practically hearing Fuqua shouting, “Oh yeah, that would be cool. Let’s do it!”
While The Equalizer 2 packs inherently tense scenes, particularly one in which Miles finds himself in Robert’s apartment as assailants close in, Fuqua fails to elevate them beyond that basic level of suspense. The same goes for a finale with a hurricane backdrop that should be an absolute corker yet is just as flat as one of the film’s dialogue-centered scenes.
On top of these missteps, it’s debatable whether Washington, who’ll be 64 in December, or 56-year-old Tom Cruise looks sillier in hand-to-hand combat and running around with advanced weaponry. With the release of Mission: Impossible - Fallout right around the corner, we won’t have to wait long for the verdict.
Grade: D. Rated R. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Columbia Pictures)