Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Review: The Equalizer 2

The Equalizer 2 (Spoilers. No seriously, massive SPOILERS)
Cert: 15 / 121 mins / Dir. Antoine Fuqua / Trailer

Well, credit where it's due, Denzel Washington is arguably making better Liam Neeson films these days than Liam Neeson. And much like everyone's favourite taciturn Irishman, the New York born actor is capable of more, but apparently not interested.

Director Antoine Fuqua returns with his screen-muse for the unwarranted sequel to the movie which no-one asked for, 2014's The Equalizer*1. Robert McCall (Washington) has taken a step up from working at the local B&Q while disrupting the activities of Russian prostitution gangs, and is now a Lyft driver. This gives the  former black-ops assassin the perfect opportunity to eavesdrop on the private lives of his passengers, and stick his judicial oar in after they've vacated the car. A bit like a 21st century version of George Formby's window cleaner, if George had gone around putting in the windows of customers he didn't like. Now there's an Ealing comedy I want to get made.

But back to the plot. Or plots. In between donning a Dick Emery-level disguise on the midnight train to Istanbul (no, really) and helping a Second World War refugee be reunited with his long-lost sister (no, really), Bob is a quiet pillar of his local community in Boston, MA*2, and keeps in regular contact with his former colleagues from the killing bureau. Because who wouldn't. Always ready to painstakingly scrub away graffiti with a nailbrush (if anything, he's just working it deeper into the brickwork) and lend worthy books to local drug-dealing apprentices, McCall's existence is trundling along on a fairly even keel until his ex-boss and soup-buddy (not a euphemism) is killed whilst on a works-visit to that dodgy Europe with its Sneaky Unwashed Foreign Types.

Now Bob's got to lay off the taxi driving for a bit and crack the case, because that's why the audience is here. Scenes.

So as you've probably gathered, we're now long past the premise of a humble sociopath protecting his neighbourhood from coincidental injustice, and into the shadowy realms of government conspiracy. You've seen this film before. And that's not to say that Equalizer 2 is outright bad, but it is outright disposable.

For the most part, Washington coasts along with his solemn, thoughtful expression until it's time for a fast-cut fight scene. There are a couple of moments where he begins to channel the more relatable qualities of his character from Fences, and I have to admit that even I thought 'Whoa mate, what are you doing? This is no place for All The Acting, reel that back in. Nobody’s asked for it, and it’s not helping'. These quieter scenes feel almost completely at odds with the autopilot thriller the rest of the movie's set its heart on being. Although they don't last for long.

On the plus side, it's nice to see that the broadly xenophobic tone of the genre (and even of this film's predecessor) takes a back seat here*3, with the threats being of a more home-grown variety. Whether this is pointed commentary or an attempt to make the film stand out in a grubby crowd is up for debate, but rest assured that the audience's emotional-buttons are pushed every bit as systematically, throughout.

The film is efficient in its own nuts-and-bolts way, or rather a cogs-and-gears one, and as a result features plot-turns you can set your watch by. I have to say that Agent Whiskey From Kingsman 2 being the bad guy was the most telegraphed twist since Agent Whiskey turned out to be a bad guy in Kingsman 2.

Probably nowhere near as dreadful as I've made this sound, Equalizer 2 is landing in the middle of what appears to be a cinematic drought. And I imagine that in those circumstances, Sony are rather hoping that an average title will suffice in lieu of an interesting one. And for many punters, that may well be the case. But if you remember watching Mission Impossible - Fallout the other week, you may feel shortchanged. In fact, when you remember that Fallout is still playing in the screen next door, you definitely will...

Equalizer 2 is 'basically fine' at best, its only great feature being the one performer who really should know better.

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
The contents of the Gift Ideas For Father's Day end-of-aisle stand in your nearest ASDA.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
If you have disposable cash and low expectations, why the heck not?

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
If you're male and have children, they'll end up buying you this for father's day.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It's not.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
That's a possibility.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Denzel Washington's in this, and he was in The Book of Eli with Ray 'Gar Saxon' Stevenson.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Yeah, the US spelling, with a 'z'. I mean, I respect that because it's the title of the work and Sony have (presumably?) left it deliberately unchanged for the UK release, but it's still painful to type. [ BACK ]

*2 We also learn that Bob has a house out on the storm-battered New England coastline where he used to live with his dead wife, but can't return to for Emotional Reasons™. Obviously he hasn't sold this house, choosing instead to reside in the city and pay the rent/mortgage on two properties as a Lyft driver raking in $16 a pop for journeys. Instead he leaves the abode completely untouched, safe in the knowledge that there's no way it'll be moved into by squatters and that there's no way the flimsy wooden dwelling will be swept into the sea at the first sign of a storm, the likes of which the Massachusetts coastline is famous for (and indeed, the likes of which occurs at the end of this movie). That's Bobby McCall. ALWAYS SEEING THE BEST IN PEOPLE. [ BACK ]

*3 Apart from the Bond-esque opening sequence of course, where our intrepid hero has taken the train from Boston to Istanbul in a bid to thwart one of those no good Turkish types who's apparently kidnapped his own half-American daughter just to piss off his ex-wife. This guy's old enough, bad enough and in posession a 3-man entourage of minions to suggest that he's not exactly a recent convert to All The Underhand Dealings. And while he's clearly not a by-the-book Islamic Fundamentalist, we get a callback later after the child is reunited with her mother. It's at that point our minds are cast back and we think 'yeah, that's who Mr 'Sneer At The West And Its Values' would go for: a blonde, educated American woman who runs a bookshop'[ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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