At the end of The Equalizer (2014), you probably thought everything that needed equalizing had been taken care of. Wrong, dummy! The Equalizer 2 has non-equalized things up the wazoo, just waiting for Denzel Washington to equalize them. He usually does it by breaking someone’s arm, though he’s not opposed to shooting or stabbing, too. Whatever it takes to achieve equalization.
Still based (very loosely) on the 1980s TV series, again written by Richard Wenk (The Mechanic) and directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), this respectable sequel finds retired CIA operative Robert McCall (Washington), a Bostonian, enjoying his new vocation as a freelance vigilante and corrector of injustices. A general do-gooder, McCall is also a Lyft driver who befriends a Holocaust-survivor passenger (Orson Bean), and a dispenser of advice to a young neighbor (Ashton Sanders) who’s on the verge of getting mixed up with drug dealers.
But those people aren’t in need of McCall’s equalizing powers. His old CIA friend Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo), targeted by assassins, needs them, as does her partner — and McCall’s former partner — Dave York (Pedro Pascal). That’s right: This time, the equalizing is personal.
This is standard-issue crime-drama stuff, but Fuqua gives it the aura and gravity of a much more important movie. He takes his time, letting us see McCall in his natural habitat while gradually introducing the story. There are some scenes (entire subplots, actually) that don’t progress the main plot but are just for character-building. That tactic is risky in a formula action movie where the audience is liable to get impatient, but Fuqua’s direction and Washington’s performance manage to convince us that Robert McCall, not the plot, is our central concern. The butt-kicking action scenes are our reward for going along with a quasi-realistic superhero movie made for grown-ups.