By: Kevin Jordan
After having just watch the MLB All-Star game, my mind was focused on trivial facts. Baseball is full of them. One running joke in my house is whenever my wife overhears a baseball announcer rambling about some statistic, she will add on something like “during day games on a Tuesday in leap years.” Try hard enough and every baseball player can claim a record or cite some ignominious stat about themselves. In the film Mr. Baseball, Tom Selleck’s character tries to impress his importance by noting “I led this team in ninth-inning doubles in the month of August.” But, this is not unique to baseball. Did you know that Denzel Washington has never reprised a character he portrayed in an earlier film until The Equalizer 2? The correct answer to that question is “did I remember to turn off the coffee pot?”
(Fun fact: I did not remember to turn off the coffee pot today. Another fun fact: SPOILER ALERT)
I am not impressed by that Denzel fact (though I would be if it ended with “on a Tuesday in a leap year”), mostly because it is nothing more than a technicality. A large portion of his roles are either cop/detective or vigilante. How sure are you that his Bob McCall (The Equalizer) is not also his John Creasy (Man on Fire)? Both characters are former CIA special ops operatives who murder scores of bad guys in an attempt to serve vigilante style justice. Do you not think a former special ops soldier uses aliases? Russ is Ross.
When we last saw Bob McCall (Washington), he had just finished massacring a bunch of Russian mobsters in a hardware store in order to free a prostitute from their grip. Now, Bob is a Lyft driver shuttling people around while keeping an eye out for someone who needs help. He has just returned home from somewhere near the Turkish border where he rescues a kidnapped girl from three baddies in under thirty seconds. He always times himself when meting out punishment. I told you – Bob likes stats. Anyway, a montage of fares ensues and we are treated to several shots of the side of Bob’s car. Eventually, we learn that Bob is still the good Samaritan always willing to lend a helping hand, but is doing it on a shoe-string budget. He lives in a run-down apartment building, cooks his own food, and volunteers to scrub graffiti off the building’s brick walls with a tiny little rag. Bruce Wayne he is not.
I mentioned in my review of The Equalizer that it was based on a television series of the same name. For the first half of the movie, we witness a series of instances of Bob helping people out as if the movie is trying to cram an entire season’s worth of episodes into forty-five minutes. While it is entertaining to watch Denzel kick ass, none of these events have any bearing on what ends up being the main plot. Weirdly, they also seem to serve as more character development; as if this movie had no idea that it was a sequel and that the audience did not already know Bob was a vigilante. I promise, we did not forget what went down in that HomeMart last movie.
The main plot appears as if it will make this movie into a spy thriller with plenty of intrigue. While Bob is slicing the throat of yuppie rapist with the rapist’s own credit card, some mysterious guys in Brussels kill a man and his wife and set it up to look like a murder-suicide. Bob’s friend, Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo), is called into investigate the murders and is subsequently murdered herself. Uh-oh. Now Bob is pissed. As he puts it to the head bad guy during the climactic fight scene, “the mistake you made was killing my friend.” Suuuuure. You maimed a quartet of random dudes after one of them put a random stranger in your car (the stranger being a woman who appeared drugged and whose shirt was not buttoned all the way up). You do not seem to be that picky.
As the movie wore on, the plot plays out as predictably as possible. Bob investigates the murder, discovers clues that only mean anything in Hollywood (example: he figures out the murder-suicide was a frame job by guessing that the killer of the wife was left-handed, but the husband was right-handed), then surmises the identity of head bad guy because the movie is well-past half-over. This spooks the head bad guy, who is also the inside man because there is always an inside man in these movies. More assassinations occur in an effort to tie up loose ends, leading to a climactic showdown between Bob and four highly-trained mercenaries, in a town being ravaged by a hurricane. Riiiiiight.
Throughout the whole movie, I kept waiting for the reveal explaining the purpose of the original murder in Brussels. Was the guy a politician refusing to take a bribe from a criminal organization? Was the guy a politician accepting bribes from a criminal organization? Was the guy about to announce he perfected cold fusion? Was the guy about to conceive John Connor? Were they, or were they not, on a break? Instead of any of these explanations, all we get is “it is nothing personal. You are just a name on a piece of paper.” That is some lazy writing right there. But, hey – at least we get to watch Denzel go into Oscar-nominee mode as he scares the shit out of young Miles (Ashton Sanders) to prevent Miles from joining a gang and committing murder.
When all is said and done, this movie offered nothing even remotely memorable. Yes, the credit-card move was unique and it was heart-warming to watch Denzel pummel a bunch of rapists, but try naming any of the bad guys in this film. By the time you get home from the theater, you will have forgotten that the bad guy eventually states that he went bad because, to paraphrase “once the agency is done with you, they throw you away and tell you to go to the VA if you need help. I have a family to feed.” To be fair, this bland and generic reasoning perfectly fits a bland and generic villain in a bland and generic movie. If you remember anything, just remember who played third base for Pittsburgh in 1960. Don Hoak!
Rating: Ask for eight dollars back because Denzel kicking ass is worth something.