He may not be willing to admit it, but after 37 years Denzel Washington has finally added a sequel to his resume. When asked about his return as Robert McCall in The Equalizer 2, the actor told the Hollywood Reporter, “It’s a story without an ending and it’s open-ended, so here we are.” In a sense he does have a point. The film picks up very shortly after the events of the first film and doesn’t miss a beat in bringing us back into the world of the original. And not only is Washington back, but director Antoine Fuqua and writer Richard Wenk are, too. Sure you could watch both films back-to-back as one long movie, but let’s face it—a sequel is a sequel. And The Equalizer 2 is a good one.

After a brief prologue on the Turkish railway, McCall is back in Boston, where he’s taken a job as a Lyft driver—giving him ample opportunity to hear about people’s problems and make things right. Early on we meet one of McCall’s regulars, Sam Rubenstein (Orson Bean), who is searching for a long-lost painting of his departed sister. McCall gets in touch with his old CIA colleague Susan (Melissa Leo), who agrees to help. While he’s at it, he also takes one of his neighbors under his wing, a young artist named Miles (Ashton Sanders), who McCall fears is throwing his life away hanging with thugs.

As all of that is going on, a diplomat and his wife are gunned down by hitmen in Brussels, and Susan and her partner Dave (Pedro Pascal) are sent in to work with Interpol. When Susan is murdered during the investigation, McCall drops what he’s doing and sharpens his focus on finding Susan’s killer.

Fuqua does a bang-up job keeping things moving along. He and Washington have established a solid rapport together (this is their fourth collaboration), and the strength of that partnership shows. Fuqua knows how to get the best out of Washington (even in a *gasp!* sequel), and Washington makes it look easy—even at age 63. In fact he’s easily out-dueling Liam Neeson in the old-guys-who-can-still-kick-ass category.

If Equalizer 2 has a fault it’s with Wenk’s over-stuffed script. He tries to cram in so many storylines that it sometimes feels like you need a map to keep track of them all. The whole “missing art” plot could be safely jettisoned, and as great as Sanders is as the misguided young man, most of that plot could have been slashed, too. Wenk apparently forgot that this was a sequel and that we already know everything we need to about McCall—he’s quiet, loves reading books, has OCD. We don’t need a lot of throw-away sub-plots to remind us he’s a good guy with a good heart (to go along with his well-established ability to kill a dozen men in thirty seconds using only a paperweight and a letter opener).

With a little more fine-tuning, The Equalizer 2 could have been a great movie and not just a really good one. Washington is off-the-charts great (as always), and he’s finally proven that he has the talent to make even a sequel worthwhile.


3.5/5 stars