I often like to reflect on the wise words of one of the great speakers of our time, Eric Taylor — the coach of the Dylan Panthers — who once said, “We will all fall.” That is true of anyone, up to and including the greatest goddamn actor of his generation, Denzel (“Motherfucking”) Washington, Oscar-winning actor, director and humanitarian. Denzel, of course, is 63 goddamn years old, and after a career that spans four decades, Equalizer 2 is the first sequel he’s ever made in that long and storied career.
And can you blame the man? After starting from scratch every single goddamn time, Denzel decided he’d like to take a beat and step into a preexisting role, that of Robert McCall, a man of few words and more detrimentally, fewer trademark Denzel smiles. But shit: There’s not a lot to grin about in the world right now, and Denzel decided he’d like to spend a few weeks sitting in a Malibu and kicking a few asses along the way (and break a dude’s fingers).
Sadly, the word that can best describe the sum of Equalizer 2 is “plodding,” which is defined in two ways: “slow-moving and unexciting,” which perfectly describes the latest movie, and — of a person — “thorough and hard-working but lacking in imagination or intelligence,” which also describes Denzel’s approach to this character, except for that crack about his intelligence, because fuck you, son, you call Denzel unintelligent at your own risk.
Equalizer 2, nevertheless, shares a very similar storyline with the first offering, only instead of working in a Home Depot, he’s a Lyft driver, and instead of saving a prostitute, Robert McCall endeavors to save a gang member (Ashton Sanders). Moreover, instead of dealing with the Russian mafia, he has to deal with a team of former CIA agents turned private hitmen led by a man played by Pedro Pascal, who takes out Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo), one of McCall’s old colleagues from the CIA. It’s all very paint-by-numbers (or “lacking in imagination”) — McCall ties together a few unrelated murders, tracks down those responsible for them, and then there’s a huge showdown when McCall lures the hitmen into a seaside town evacuated because of an oncoming hurricane, which leads to a preposterous sequence in which Pascal plays a sniper in 100 degree winds.
It’s something of a snoozer, featuring a low-energy performance by Denzel, who spends much of the film quietly observing — people, computers, phones, a guy painting a wall — and very little time delivering impassioned speeches or putting inferior people into their place, and by “inferior people” I mean all people who are not Denzel. But again, as Coach Taylor says, “every man at some point in his life is gonna lose a battle. What makes him a man is that in the midst of that battle, he does not lose himself,” and where it concerns Denzel Washington, I seriously doubt there’s a need to worry. The man, after all, did just fetch a Tony nomination, and I’m sure that the Equalizer 2 money afforded him some time to focus on his craft.