Denzel Washington has become a cinematic icon throughout the past few decades. His name is synonymous with everything that is cool, measured, intense and memorable in Hollywood. He has moved to a point in his life where he could go by his first name only and that is all that needs to be said about the man. Which makes things a bit confusing when this multiple Academy Award-winning actor chooses one of his least memorable roles to be the first sequel of his illustrious career.
Robert McCall (Washington) is a former CIA Black Ops agent who was declared dead by the agency, but continues to live out his life in the urban setting of Boston. He spends his time between being a ride-sharing driver and working on projects where he helps people who need assistance that law enforcement is unable to serve. After returning from an abduction operation in Turkey, McCall is contacted by Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) who is the only person at the agency who knows he is alive.
The retired head of the intelligence agency merely wants to check up on her friend before going to Hungary to investigate the apparent suicide of one of her contacts. While in Europe, she is murdered and McCall has to come out of hiding to help in the investigation into Susan’s death. What seems to be a straight-forward theft-gone-bad, turns into an internal investigation into the inner workings of the CIA and threatens everything Robert McCall has left in his life.
One of the key drivers behind this sequel being made comes down to the long-standing relationship between actor and director. Washington and director Antoine Fuqua (The Magnificent Seven) have collaborated on four films together and due to the monetary success of the original, this must have seemed like a logical next step. As a producer and the lead in the film, Denzel manages to deliver the gravitas needed to move this role forward, but the script buckles under the weight of his performance. The writing is reminiscent of the majority of Charles Bronson and Bruce Willis films that capitalise on the vigilante genre. Primarily when the marketing contains the line, ‘this time its personal’ there is a familiarity that leads to an unenthusiastic shrug.
Fuqua brings his signature action sequences and the metaphor with the oncoming hurricane provides the elements that should complement Washington’s smouldering intensity. Where things fall apart is in the rest of the screenplay that feels like a rehashing of a Death Wish screenplay. There is a glimmer of hope in the mentoring relationship between the McCall character and a young man from the neighbourhood. Ashton Sanders (Moonlight) provides a freshness to the somewhat stale script, but then turns into another metaphor for the predictability of the rest of the writing. Each act becomes more formulaic, the characters are predictable and the final twists are telegraphed so early, there is little to be celebrated in the end.
Equalizer 2 is for the die-hard Denzel Washington fan who is not looking for anything new, but standard stock from their favourite leading man. This film proves that everyone needs a saviour at some point in their lives, but the whole production fails to save itself from itself.
REEL DIALOGUE: Right and Wrong – Can we really know they exist?
One highlight of this movie is the discussion about the determination of right and wrong by asking if sin actually exists in the world. Both sides of the argument had passionate support, but the challenge to this negative side to the existence of sin is shown in the inevitable end that proves that right and wrong do exist.
How do people determine right and wrong in a world of ‘grey?’ Besides relying on mere intuition and personal conjecture, the search for the answer to this question has to be outside of the human experience. Some may look for answers in science, philosophy and religion, but how can people know where to find the answers to the ethical and moral queries?
Through this journey of enquiry, the Bible is an excellent source to consider. The wisdom found in the words of this book does not give specific answers to every situation that comes along, but it offers the framework to know how to make the right decision, and it even provides solutions to life’s more prominent considerations. In this investigation, the best places to start are in some of the books of wisdom in the Old Testament (Psalms and Proverbs) or the book of Romans in the New Testament.