Combustible Celluloid
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With: Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, Orson Bean, Jonathan Scarfe, Sakina Jaffrey, Kazy Tauginas, Garrett A. Golden
Written by: Richard Wenk
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
MPAA Rating: R for brutal violence throughout, language, and some drug content
Running Time: 121
Date: 07/20/2018

The Equalizer 2 (2018)

3 Stars (out of 4)

McCall Back

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This sequel to The Equalizer (2014), itself based on the 1980s TV series, is more of the same, with overly familiar screenwriting, a compelling lead character, and exciting, inventive action scenes.

In The Equalizer 2, former secret agent Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) takes a quick jaunt to Turkey to retrieve a kidnapped girl. Then he returns to his life in Boston. He is presumed dead, but lives quietly, reading, and driving for Lyft. He befriends a teen neighbor, Miles (Ashton Sanders), who dreams of being an artist. When their courtyard is covered in grafitti, McCall encourages Miles to re-paint it.

Meanwhile, his old colleague Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) visits him on his late wife's birthday before she heads to Brussels to investigate a supposed murder-suicide. Later, she is attacked in her hotel room, and McCall gets word that she is dead. He reveals himself to Susan's partner, Dave York (Pedro Pascal), and begins investigating her death. Unfortunately, this brings him the attention of a group of killers. Worse, the killers decide to use Miles for bait to catch McCall.

Director Antoine Fuqua, screenwriter Richard Wenk, and star Washington re-unite for The Equalizer 2 as if they'd never left, (sidestepping briefly into The Magnificent Seven) easing into their well-worn roles with expert ease. Wenk cooks up a nifty James Bond-like "unrelated incident" opening, just to show that McCall's skills are still sharp (and he still uses his stopwatch like a boss), as well as an easily-identifiable "surprise" villain and a very basic good-vs-evil, honor-vs-betrayal plot.

Washington finds a sympathetic center to McCall, spending time listening to, or observing his Lyft customers and quietly moved by their small joys and sorrows. But the real reason to watch is Fuqua's expertly-staged action sequences, including the opening scene on a train in Istanbul, a tense home-invasion sequence wherein Miles hides inside McCall's secret room, and especially the storm-swept showdown.

McCall meets the bad guys in his seaside hometown, where the wind is so strong the soundtrack echoes with the groans of structures being tested on their foundations and the spatter of starting rain. It's ultimately as weightless as any of a dozen action-thrillers made in the 1980s, but it's also enjoyably diverting.

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