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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Film review: 'The Equaliser 2' is every bit as good (and bad) as the original

Denzel Washington returns as one-man vengeance machine Robert McCall

Denzel Washington returns as Robert McCall. Sony Pictures
Denzel Washington returns as Robert McCall. Sony Pictures

Denzel Washington, a two-time Oscar winner, has never ­appeared in a sequel in his four-decade career, so it’s perhaps a little surprising that the actor has chosen to break this pattern with a film from the more bargain bin side of his portfolio.

That’s not to do a disservice to The Equalizer. It’s one of the few 80s TV adaptations that doesn’t make this reviewer recoil in horror at the very mention of its name. Director Antoine Fuqua has proved his mettle many times, not least with the 2001 cop drama Training Day, for which Washington received an Oscar for Best Actor. Washington, meanwhile, can effortlessly fill the screen, even with limited material and a character whose very essence is that we essentially know nothing about his character, as he does here. Neither Fuqua nor Washington is likely to be under any Oscar illusions about The Equalizer franchise, however. It’s purely designed to be a high-intensity, exploitative bloodbath, and it does that very well.

If you’ve seen the first film, then you know what to expect from the second, but in case you’ve forgotten, Fuqua throws in an early reminder with a gory massacre on a Turkish train as Washington’s Robert McCall brutally rescues a kidnapped child mere seconds into the film.

The vigilante ex-special agent becomes a father figure to a troubled teen – last time round a young street walker he meets in his local diner, and this time a student, Miles, who lives in his building and has got in with the wrong crowd (Ashton Sanders). Miles is kidnapped, McCall’s former mentor Susan (Melissa Leo) is killed during an investigation and, as you can imagine, much retribution is to be had, once again with a variety of unusual and unexpected objects and weapons that happen to be lying around.

This time, McCall also has a new job. In the first film, he was a DIY store worker, and now he’s a Lyft (a taxi service in the West like Uber and Careem) driver. This turns out to be a very wise career move as it gets McCall out and about more, and it turns out a lot of bad guys use Lyft.

Just as you’ll know what to expect if you’ve seen the first film, and if you liked it, then you will like this one too. The plot is paper thin, yet even though there’s so little of it, still manages to appear somewhat confused at points. Two films and four hours into The Equalizer’s adventures, we still have no idea of who, or why, The Equalizer is, or what drives him. The violence is gratuitous – the opening scenes have shades of Lynne Ramsay’s ultra-violent You Were Never Really Here about them, though that film at least had the ­excuse of being an art house number. This really is violence for violence sake.

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If you liked the first film, ­however, none of this will matter when you watch the second. It’s a dumb, brooding, cauldron of hatred and ­violence, and Washington is the coolest one-man army of vengeance you could wish for, somehow ­bringing meaning to his barely sketched character in spite of the scriptual obstacles placed before him. It’s big exploitation fare in the finest Grindhouse tradition, and tremendous fun if you’re not ­squeamish. But no, it won’t be winning any Oscars.

The Equalizer 2 is out in UAE cinemas on August 16

The Equaliser 2

Director Antoine Fuqua

Starring: Denzel Washington, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, Ashton Sanders

Three stars

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