Thomas Jefferson declared that all men are created equal, but the world is what it is, so Denzel Washington’s got to wander the Earth, equalizing. The character has a name, of course, with a couple of traits and a backstory, but watch The Equalizer 2 with an audience, experience its long lulls and bursts of violence with them, and it’s clear that we’re all just watching Denzel, just as in Arnold or Stallone movies we’re watching Arnold or Stallone. “You don’t fuck with my boy!” a guy sitting near me exclaimed when some dudes made the mistake most dudes make in Equalizer movies, that of not recognizing that the quiet Denzel standing before them is the star of the movie.
Spoiler: The dudes soon regret fucking with him.
As the star, Denzel has the power, at any moment, to kill every motherfucker in any room. The suspense in the first half of this curiously glum film comes from wondering how he’ll exercise this power — which rooms, and which motherfuckers, will he spare?
When not killing or administering beatdowns, Denzel putters around a Roxbury apartment complex, befriending the neighbors, reading great books, painting over graffiti, running a sort of low-key mentorship program. Those scenes are low-key, unfussy, gently moving; Denzel the actor, for a few moments, takes over from Denzel the Movie Star. But too often we’re stuck watching scenes of home invasions and hotel conferences set in Belgium, a country Denzel never visits. Worse, in the hurricane climax, the lashing wind and rain, and the haphazard storytelling, deny us the grim pleasures of Denzel’s methodical slayings.
Antoine FuquaDenzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Bill Pullman, Melissa LeoRichard Lindheim, Richard WenkSony Pictures