The Equalizer 2 is not much better or worse than its predecessor. However, the sequel proves the concept works best when it is serialized, not self-contained. After a strong opening fight on a train through Turkey, the time spent with Denzel Washington’s Robert McCall as a Lyft driver—whether it’s a side job or a way to hunt for potential clients is not quite clear—is the stretch during which the movie works best. (If The Equalizer 2 were a video game, its side missions would be way more interesting than the main mission.) When Robert’s only remaining friend, Susan (Melissa Leo), is killed in a suspicious hotel robbery, the former spy goes to war with the responsible parties.
Way too much of the just-over two-hour run time is spent on the climactic shootout during a hurricane—a sequence that feels ripped from a rejected Jack Reacher script. The entire main mission could be the basis for another Reacher movie, which is not a bad thing by itself. The strength of The Equalizer’s concept is that he helps the powerless who cannot help themselves. Avenging the murder of his best friend is the season-ending cliffhanger that draws in viewers but does not reinforce the central concept.
Still, in McCall, Washington has found a wonderful, weathered role with which he can not only collect a paycheck but also infuse with humanity often missing from the newly popular “old badass” genre.