Art it most assuredly wasn’t, but 2014’s The Equalizer had its pulpy virtues, most notably a vigilante with obsessive-compulsive tendencies who enacted ridiculously excessive amounts of righteous vengeance on his foes. (A revenge movie that can actually make you feel briefly sorry for Eurotrash human traffickers is doing something right.) The Equalizer 2 tries hard to recreate that primal red-meat formula, but takes far too long puttering around to really deliver the exploitation goods. Just get to the equalizing already!
Continuing to draw extremely loose inspiration from the ’80s TV series, the plot this time around finds presumed dead badass Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) now passing his days as a Lyft driver, a gig which cleverly puts him in contact with a series of broad stereotypes needing an unsanctioned hand. After an old friend meets their maker in Brussels, however, McCall must get back on the radar and confront his violent military past. Eventually. When he gets a minute.
Returning director/frequent Washington cohort Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Magnificent Seven) seems unable to pick a style here, wobbily drifting between blurry action, static exposition, and sometimes just turning the camera upside down for the apparent heck of it. That uncertainty infects the entire movie, resulting in a odd mishmash of long-winded morality lessons, clunky attempts at character-building, and the occasional close-up of a bad guy’s exposed gastrointestinal tract. The moments where Denzel stops speechifying and gets down to business may still pack a grisly wallop, but the level of flab throughout The Equalizer 2 is such that it’s difficult to see anyone walking away satisfied. Dullness is the worst kind of sin that this type of movie can commit; at the preview screening, the seat-shifting was audible.