By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.
I finally got the chance to see “The Equalizer 2,” starring Denzel Washington (Denzel). This first sequel for Denzel and for the film’s director Antoine Fuqua, who directed him in his Oscar-winning role as the bad, bad cop in “Training Day,” has broken records at the box office. During its first 10 days of release, ending July 29, the movie earned more than $64.231 million domestically, compared to the industry’s “chosen child” “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” which earned about $70.43 million for its first 10 days. During one day within that first weekend, Equalizer 2 had been the top moneymaker. This film keeps pressing on to prove, once again, that Denzel attracts across all ethnicities. He’s not just a chocolate movie idol, he’s everyone’s movie idol.
In “The Equalizer 2,” which also stars Melissa Leo as Susan Plummer, Denzel plays Robert McCall, as he did in the first “Equalizer” film, which was released in 2014. These two films are based on the 1980 TV series of the same name. McCall plays an Uber driver who is a modern day vigilante, although he had been presumed dead, who really cares about people. He is an avid reader, lives modestly but is never modest when it comes to getting rid of thugs who have gotten in his way or who he has information about that warrants their destruction. He often uses a stopwatch to time himself on just how long it will take him to annihilate the enemy. He will politely ask his unfortunate subject what hand they would prefer that he disable, and even the type of pain that they would like to endure. He is a considerate gentleman.
There is much action in this film, with McCall taking on three and four thugs at one time and coming out on the top only slightly rumpled. He lives in an integrated neighborhood in Boston and takes time out to mentor a young college student named Miles, played by “Moonlight” star Ashton Sanders. But he is also holding much in about his wife’s death, as if he hasn’t taken much time to grieve.
Along with McCall’s unsuspecting nature, he also drops gems throughout the film—namely, Native Son and Richard Wright; Ta-Nehisi Coates and Between the World and Me; scenes in Roxbury, where Malcolm X once lived with his half-sister, and a friendship with an elderly man who is a Holocaust survivor.
Miles knows that he wants to be an artist, but the pull of fast money draws him toward the wrong crowd. And in a scene that mimics the actions of a Black superhero, McCall helps to ensure that he stays on track.
Movie-goer Pastor Olivia Johnson, of Generational Blessings Family Worship Center, applauded Denzel’s powerful acting and the film’s message. “Denzel still has that ‘it’ factor! Though a predictable action-packed movie with mystery man Robert McCall defending the defenseless while unable to reconcile with his own past, most enjoyable to me was the unpredictable and intriguing relationship that he developed with Miles.”
Johnson says that McCall didn’t necessarily want to rescue Miles, but wanted to redirect him from the gang life by showing him the way out of poverty, so he could rescue himself. “McCall offers Miles the opportunity to earn an honest day’s pay by utilizing his artistic gifts and goes the step further to educate him, assigning him books to read that mirror his life’s experience but that also offer hope and a path to survival as a Black man in America. I appreciate that, while offering entertainment, the movie addresses the real-life poverty, drug and under-education problems that plague African-American males today.”
After working on previous cases with Susan, McCall is tasked with a particularly complicated case—to find the men responsible for her murder. After digging, he finds that her killers are closer than he would like to believe.
At this point, McCall is in full killer mode, and by association Miles is pulled into the fray. And the ride won’t disappoint any fan who hasn’t seen “The Equalizer 2,” which is playing at theaters everywhere.