Denzell Washington Robert McCall
Pedro Pascal Dave York
Ashton Sanders Miles Whittaker
Orson Bean Sam Rubinstein
Bill Pullman Brian Plummer
Melissa Leo Susan Plummer
For this week’s selection, I decided to go the route of sequels, and after perusing my stack of unwatched films I selected “The Equalizer 2” as my next choice. Ok, for those few people who read this blog on a regular basis, it is not selected, it was just the next one in the pile. But I have digressed, The Equalizer 2 is the long awaited sequel to 2014s “The Equalizer”. Apparently called the “Sequalizer” by the cast when filming, this action picture stars Denzel Washington returning to the character of Robert McCall. Of note, according to the extra’s on the disc, this is the first time that Denzel Washington has reprised a character in his career of 50 plus films. Needless to say, we are huge fans of Denzel, loved the first movie, and were really looking forward to watching this one. So, after pouring another glass of wine for me, ice water for my wife, we put in the movie for a night’s entertainment.
What can I say about EQ2? Well, first, while it is an action film and stars one of the best actors of the generation, and, in my opinion, it is sadly not as good as the original. The original film was dark, action packed and almost visceral in its portrayal of Robert McCall, the retired CIA assassin who was just trying to rebuild his life while grieving for his late wife. In the first film, his moral responsibility to help people is his driving force for action and the tension builds and the action is non-stop. As you can tell, I just loved the first film in the franchise, however in this film, it appears like there are too many threads in the canvass, and you can get lost in unravelling them all. Yes, it has action, a few one liners, and a thin plot, but it does not deliver as much as it’s predecessor did.
What is the storyline you ask? EQ2 starts off on a train in Turkey and McCall (Washington) is dressed as an Iman. While entering the bar car, looking for some hot water for his tea, he spies his target, along with bodyguards. His target on this mission is a miscreant who kidnapped his own daughter from the mother for the sole purpose to cause her pain, not for love. Of course, McCall is there to rescue the daughter and bring her home. He wreaks his own justice on the group, rescues the girl and returns her home. This is all within 5 minutes of the opening credits. Wow, it did grab me right away as Denzel’s trademark of calm and exacting retribution did not fail to deliver. However, right after that scene, it seemed like the threads started to unravel.
We, the audience are introduced to several story lines where McCall exacts justice for the driver seat of his “Lyft” taxi service;
- An old man who has lost not only a famous portrait as a result of WW2, but also his sister;
- A young girl who was abused by a number of well to do, narcissistic ass hats;
- His old boss who brings him soup to see how he his doing; and
- A young man who is a budding artist, but may go down the wrong path to drugs and gang violence without his support.
While some of the threads are intertwined, some just a bit of confusion as to where it falls within the major storyline. Were they part of the plot, or just some extraneous information on how good McCall (Washington) is? Well, I guess it was a bit of both. There are really two main threads to follow here, the first is McCall (Washington) taking the young man Miles Whittaker (Sanders) under his wing, giving him purpose and support. The support or mentorship is not only morally, it is emotionally and intellectually as well. Miles (Sanders) ends up assisting McCall (Washington) in not only undoing a gang’s vandalism in the neighbourhood, but also is employed to paint McCall’s apartment. Throughout the film, we see McCall (Washington) imparting wisdom and morality to his young protégé, and also ultimately saving his life, both literally and figuratively.
The 2ndand actually the prime thread in this film, is that of his old boss, Susan Plummer (Leo). We first see her having a meal with McCall and talking with him over bowls of soup. One of the 3 reoccurring characters from the first film, her husband Brian (Pullman) and McCall (Washington) being the others. After this meal, Susan (Leo) travels to Europe for her work in the CIA (investigating a murder), whereupon she also gets brutally beaten and also murdered. McCall (Washington) gets involved at the behest of her husband only to discover that his former team mate, York (Pascal) is also part of the event, though he is unsure of how.
It is at this point we do discover a little of McCall’s past. While it is alluded to before, McCall (Washington) was involved in Black Ops for the government and had lead his team in a number of missions to mete out death on behalf of the government. We also discover that McCall had staged his own death to live a new life after losing his wife and that his former team had basically gone rogue. Not only are they working for the government, they are selling their services to the highest bidder as well, regardless of the consequences.
Trying not to give out too many surprises or plot lines, as you can surmise, McCall (Washington) confronts his former team, exacts revenge for the death of his friend Susan (Leo) saves his new friend, Whittaker (Sanders) and tries to tie up some other storylines introduced within the film.
What did we think of the film? First my wife and I were entertained, but not as much as the first one. We found this film to be very predictable, I don’t think there was one scene where we did not see where it was going to go and how McCall was going to get there. However, having said that, Denzel Washington is still an amazing actor and his lines, delivery and actions were spot-on as always. Yes, he is getting older, but the movements are believable and don’t leave you scratching your head or calling bullshit. If there is any fault of his character, I would leave the blame with the director and screenplay writer for any portions that were either not explained enough, wrapped up, or even forgotten. An actor with an amazing catalogue of film and tv, Denzel Washington can be counted on to perform any role with skill. These roles can range from a hitman/assassin with conscience, a gunslinger, a soldier, doctor, teacher or lawyer…each and every performance is always first rate. His performance in EQ2 did not fail either, as mentioned previously, any failings in this film, would lie elsewhere in our opinion, and not tied with his performance.
However, now, with respect to the villain in this film, Dave York (Pascal), I can’t really say the same about his performance. While trying to play a government agent or mercenary/assassin for hire, I found him lacking. Even the scene where McCall enters York’s home, ingratiates himself with his family and actually leaves with them, Pascal did not deliver the emotions and actions that would be expected. Yes, he is a professional assassin etc, but I believe his verbal delivery and eyes should have been more expressive here to show the conflict. Additionally, we felt that his performance was very robotic and was lacking. If his portrayal was amped a bit, it probably would have made a better movie overall. Maybe if his other team member’s personalities and relationships with York and McCall were expanded it would have given them more teeth, than really being nothing more than paper tigers, and ultimately targets to McCall’s weapons.
Ashton Sanders as Miles Whittaker: I really liked his character, as the young man who falls under McCall’s (Washington) wing, he portrayed the requisite emotions for the tasks at hand. His troubled youth persona was believable, as you could see his turmoil with every decision or action. Does he go with the gangs, or does he work for a living doing what he loves, his artwork. He respects McCall, but also as the move progresses, you can see a bit of fear as well. He does not know what McCall is capable of, while at the same time, he is trying to understand the why. Why is he being protected and mentored? All of these emotions are portrayed well and the chemistry between the two is excellent. There are two stand-out scenes for them. The first, when McCall (Washington) extracts him from the gang’s lair and lectures him on what he could be, and the second, in McCall’s house during the storm. Each scene exhibits the emotion required and ensures that not only do you, the audience, feel for McCall, but you also want Whittaker (Sanders) to succeed as well. A very good performance.
Melissa Leo as Susan Plummer: His old boss and friend, Plummer (Leo) is integral to the plot as to why and how McCall is brought in to wreak his own kind of vengeance. However, in this instance, if you did not know her from the first film, you could be lost as to their relationship. It is mentioned, but not the importance of their bond. This could have been enhanced a bit more in the film, maybe even a flashback sequence from the first film? I believe that just by adding this small scene, it could have made her death more poignant to McCall and the audience.
Bill Pullman as Brian Plummer: As the last re-occurring character in EQ2, his role was the most wasted. I like Bill Pullman and his films, but here he was just another character that could have been written off. Actually in one aspect he actually is, after McCall takes him to a hotel room and explains that they (the bad guys) are trying to clean up loose ends, we never see or hear from him again. This is one of the threads that got lost in the film and had us scratching our head. His character was not really required, he could have passed the info in a phone call, text etc, and not even been included in the film. By having him there, and then forgetting about him, it actually made his non-relevance stand out more.
Orson Bean as Sam Rubinstein: Here is another character that really did not need to be there, except to demonstrate that McCall is a fixer and has more heart. The only reason that this story line could have been inserted is to demonstrate that McCall not only fixes unwarranted acts of violence/aggression, he can also fix someone’s spirit. So in that light, then maybe I buy it a bit, however, what should have and could have happened is at least a scene where he does a bit of research to find out Rubinstein’s long lost sister. Just having her show up at the end, was almost kind of a cheat, yes we know that McCall is behind it, but the “how” was not revealed. C’mon, McCall is not the amazing Kreskin or the “Mentalist”, he still has to research and find out things.
Overall, we enjoyed the film and we were entertained, but not as much as the original. Denzel was great as always, but his supporting cast was kind of uneven in their performances. We also found that there were some holes in the plot, and the reasons “why” something was done was either lost or forgotten completely. Besides the predictability of the film, the action sequences and cinematography were done very well and added to the film’s enjoyment. If you are a fan of Washington, then there is no doubt that you will enjoy the film, though, if you are a fan of films and cinema, I am sure that you will see some of the same errors or gaps that I did. But all in all, not a bad film. One final piece of advice, make sure you watch the original first, or you will get lost in this one!
Our Rating: 6/10
If you are interested in watching any films/shows with the main cast, consider the following recommendations:
Denzel Washington Glory, Pelican Brief, Courage under Fire, The Book of Eli, 2 Guns, The Equalizer, Flight (pretty much any of his films!)
Pedro Pascal Narcos, Game of Thrones
Bill Pullman Independence Day, The Equalizer, Sleepless in Seattle
Melissa Leo The Equalizer, The Big Short, London has Fallen