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Non-Review Review: The Equaliser 2

At one point in The Equaliser 2, Robert McCall is listening to a radio forecast of a storm front sweeping through the north east of the United States.

“It’s coming in slow,” the meteorologist explains. “It’s taking it’s time.” In theory, so is The Equaliser 2. The storm is itself a metaphor for both the film and its protagonist, a force of nature descending upon the characters with a slow and steady certainty. The Equaliser 2 is a film that is very consciously taking its time, the script structured in such a way as to prioritise mood and ambiance over plot and pacing. The Equaliser 2 is meant to seem a stately and poetic meditation on violence and the men who commit it. At least in theory.

Yeah, we don’t know why it isn’t called The Sequeliser either.

It is clear what writer Richard Wenk and director Antoine Fuqua are trying to do over the course of the film’s two-hour-and-nine-minute runtime, building a mounting sense of dread towards a cathartic release. However, there is something deadly unsatisfying in this. The Equaliser 2 is not nearly clever enough nor intricate enough to sustain that more relaxed pace. What should be profound is instead belaboured, what should be considered is instead clumsy. Plot threads are broached and disappear. The one that reach their conclusion arrive long after the audience.

The Equaliser 2 forsakes the grotty do-it-yourself brutality of its predecessor, aspiring towards something moving and insightful. Unfortunately, all of that gets lost in a haze. The storm passes overhead, and it seems unlikely that anybody would even notice.

A storm is coming.

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Non-Review Review: The Equaliser

Appropriately enough for a movie featuring a climax that might be dubbed “Die Hard at the Home Depot”, The Equaliser does exactly what it says on the tin.

The revenge thriller is a tried-and-tested storytelling model. Similarly “the unstoppable killing machine relapses” is a pretty effective stock plot element. There is very little surprising to be found in The Equaliser. There’s never any real doubt about our hero. There’s never a twist that can’t be seen coming a mile away. Appropriately enough, given our hero’s fixation on time-keeping, everything in The Equaliser is constructed like clockwork. There is minimal clutter, no extraneous element. It works right out of the box.

When all you have is a hammer...

When all you have is a hammer…

And yet, despite that, it largely works. For all that one can follow instructions, watch-making is an artform. The Equaliser may not be an exceptional example of the form, but it is a fine demonstration of just how much technical skill counts in putting something like this together. Denzel Washington may be the most likeable leading man of his generation. Even when he is attacking mobsters with corkscrews or suffocating adversaries in their cars, there’s something strangely charming about him.

It helps that director Antoine Fuqua goes all in on The Equaliser. There are no half-measures here. The Equaliser doesn’t just hit the necessary beats. It smashes them.

Tears in the rain...

Tears in the rain…

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