Movie Review: ‘THE EQUALIZER 2’ – murdering with a moral center


James Cole Clay // Film Critic


Rated R, 121 minutes
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Ashton Sanders, Pedro Pascal and Melissa Leo

Denzel Washington’s character in THE EQUALIZER 2, Robert McCall, loathes swear words, but takes no qualms in disarming murderous assailants at the drop of a hat, all for the sake of “keeping the neighborhood clean,” as he so eloquently puts his life philosophy. In his past, he was an army man who could kill at will; now in his 60s, he’s a handyman who can kill under the guise of his moral compass. Vigilantes in the September of their years have been done to death. Washington doesn’t bring anything novel to his acting tool belt, yet it has enough focus to become a successful B-movie, even if it is weirdly preachy.

Movies such as THE EQUALIZER 2 don’t really need an excuse for existing, but McCall is a man of many stories. He floats through life like a mythic being who’s there to kill scummy people around the globe while going through a “100 books you need to read before you die” list, and randomly giving a “ you can do it” kind of speech when his inner football coach comes out to play. It would be a shame to pretend that the heart of this movie didn’t take an emotional affect amidst all the grisly violence. There’s something oddly comforting about Washington’s McCall righting wrongs and putting a stop to those abusing their power, even if he comes off a bit smug in the process.

Denzel Washington in ‘THE EQUALIZER.’ Courtesy photo.

Director Antoine Fuqua’s flare for cinematic violence ended up crafting one of the greatest crime dramas of all time in TRAINING DAY. With these EQUALIZER films, he’s attempting to cast a shadow that exceeds the tension of gritty crime and veering into a space that’s casting a larger net of crowd pleasing punches.

This narrative boils down to a humdrum murder plot has McCall thirsty for vengeance by any means necessary. Fuqua communicates well with his audience, asking them to suspend disbelief during its action set pieces only ground the film in reality with the threat of gang violence. If you look into the metaphorical threads of EQUALIZER 2 and pull a bit, the whole sweater will fall apart. However, in light of its flaws, the film accomplishes its bloody goal of killing in the name of good. 

EQUALIZER 2 takes on an odd tonal shape due to McCall’s self righteous violence; maybe it’s because what he does on screen is terrifying, though oddly endearing. It’s a ridiculous piece of filmmaking that crosses some lines and breaks its own rules, which results in its inconsistencies as a whole. However, this movie is exactly what it promises: dumb, obvious and really just sticking up for the little guy.

[Grade: B-]

Additional notes:

  • This is the first sequel Denzel Washington has done in his career.
  • Fuqua brings back the clever “McCall cam” where he plots out in real time how he’s going to kill the bad guys. 
  • This guy is essentially a Jason Voorhees style slasher, except instead of teenagers, it’s sex traffickers.
  • MOONLIGHTt’s Ashton Sanders shows up in a substantial supporting role as an at-risk youth. More of him going forward, please. 
  • My audience L-O-V-E-D it every time Denzel gave out a life lesson. Like cheered him on LOVED IT.

THE EQUALIZER 2 opens nationwide this Friday (7/20).

About author

James C. Clay

James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.