Is Denzel Washington’s character in “The Equalizer 2” perhaps Prince T’Challa’s non-vibranium-enhanced, black-ops-agent uncle? I think so. Actually, the real question here is: Is agent Robert McCall secretly using vibranium, but director Antoine Fuqua is hiding that fact from us?
Because agent McCall is absolutely un-whackable, unassailable, and completely impervious. And clearly, even in his 60s, quicker than his nephew, the Black Panther.
And furthermore, he’s got that Sherlock Holmes thing (can we just agree Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes has superpowers?) where he can visualize and re-create all the details of a complicated crime scene with the superpowers that dwell in his head.
For the record, I think Robert McCall is an unsung, aging, African-American, distant relation of Black Panther, who Marvel Comics’ founder Stan Lee never got around to drawing.
The really good thing is, here’s a former military special operator turned CIA black-ops agent, who, after retiring, worked in a hardware store, then became a Lyft driver, and then, in perfect superhero fashion, felt the need to save all kinds of innocent people from harm—especially young, abducted or trafficked girls. This is wonderful. Can never have enough of that.
Also, in his spare time, he does mentoring. He mentors, for example, Miles, a black teenager (Ashton Sanders from “Moonlight”), to put down the gangbanger gun and take up the paintbrush Miles’s young heart yearns for. Also, he gets Miles to read books, like Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me.” That’s wonderful too; let’s have that all the time—love that. This is true elderhood in action: initiating boys into manhood.
And if that weren’t enough, McCall also does elder-care service. He sits patiently with a Holocaust survivor (Orson Bean) and listens to the story of how he lost his sister. Ex-agent McCall is a good, good man.
So, we quickly jump into one of the many random storylines, where he Lyfts (is that a verb yet?) a young woman from a hotel in Boston. She’s crying, clearly having been drugged and abused by some yuppie-scum boys. McCall ferries her to the hospital, then comes right back and whups the pants off these boys. Very, very, very violently.
Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) and Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) in “The Equalizer 2.” (Glen Wilson/CTMG, Inc./Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc.)
Then someone makes a really grave mistake: They kill McCall’s former CIA handler Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) while she’s in Brussels on an assassination investigation. She and McCall had remained good friends who had the occasional bowl of soup together. Doom on her killers, because Mr. McCall, while a good man, is also bad in the Leroy Brown sense of the word. But I’m repeating myself.
Was McCall’s former partner (Pedro Pascal) involved? It’s a distinct possibility. And in the second movie of the summer involving a Category 5 hurricane (the other one is “Hot Summer Nights”), there’s a “Pale Horse” type of shootout in a restricted beach town.
The fights, while excellently choreographed and certainly fun due to the high schadenfreude and instant karma factors, are smeared with director Fuqua’s disturbing predilection for screen violence. The best of these fight scenes involves McCall expertly swerving his Lyft car to keep a backseat assailant off balance, while prevailing in a knife fight.
There’s a certain heightened tension from good fight choreography, but on the other hand, because there’s the issue of the obvious hidden use of vibranium—the fights are also a tiny bit ho-hum. So it’s paradoxical: They’re unpredictable and predictable at the same time.
“The Equalizer 2” is Washington’s as well as Antoine Fuqua’s first-ever sequel. Unless Fuqua settles the vibranium question and tones the violence down, I’d prefer they don’t team up for a third one.
‘The Equalizer 2’
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Melissa Leo, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Bill Pullman
Rated: R (action-thriller brutal violence, drugs, language)
Running time: 2 hours, 1 minute
Release Date: July 20
Rated 2.5 stars out of 5