Friday, 27 July 2018

THE EQUALIZER 2 : Tuesday 24th July 2018.

'THE EQUALIZER 2' (aka 'EQ2') which I saw at my local multiplex earlier this week, is the follow up to the 2014 Antoine Fuqua Directed first big screen adaptation of the popular '80's TV series 'The Equalizer' with Denzel Washington portraying the one man vigilante army out of retirement, Robert McCall (played by Edward Woodward in the television series of the same name). That film cost US$73M to make and grossed US$193M at the global Box Office, and even before its release this sequel had already been announced. This film marks the fourth big screen collaboration between Fuqua and Washington with the first being 2001's 'Training Day', the second being the aforementioned film in this series, the third 'The Magnificent Seven' remake from 2016 and now 'EQ2'. This film cost US$62M and so far raked in US$51M following its release in the US last week too. Having so far garnered generally mixed or average Reviews, Critics have praised Washington's performance and the gritty and well choreographed action scenes, but have largely dismissed the storyline and plot development.

The film opens up with Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) masquerading as an American Turkish cleric aboard a train about an hour and a half outside Istanbul. As the train traverses the mountainous countryside McCall follows a man through to the dining car, having left his wife and child sleeping in their seat. Ordering a pot of hot water from the attendant the man sparks up a conversation with McCall asking him if he is American and how he comes to be on the train. McCall responds with a statement that he is searching for a man, a violent angry man, who has abducted his young daughter from the United States and has against her will, and that of her mother, taken her back to Turkey. Would he know of anyone who would do such a thing? Of course, this is a hypothetical question because that man, is the very same man that McCall is talking to. The man returns to his seat and orders his three goons to dispense with McCall, but naturally, it is the other way around, and within thirty seconds the three goons are dead, and McCall offers the man a choice.

Within a couple of days, McCall has returned the young girl to her elated mother back in Massachusetts, where McCall is living in an apartment complex and working as a 'Lyft' driver picking up both random and regular passengers and transporting them to and fro. When he's not driving for a living, McCall comes to the rescue of those less fortunate or in need of some special skills. Only his old friend Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) who works for the Defence Intelligence Agency, is aware of McCall's extra curricular exploits and helps him out with intelligence gathering when she can. One day, Susan is called upon to investigate an apparent murder suicide of one of her undercover operatives in Brussels, Belgium. She is accompanied by Dave York (Pedro Pascal), a former college of McCall's, to review the scene of the crime, collect what evidence they can, and return quickly. After their investigations have concluded, they return to their hotel before their departure early the next morning. Plummer is followed into her room by two young backpacker goons who attack her. She puts up a good fight, but is ultimately killed by the assailants.

Meanwhile back home, and McCall befriends a young lad who is a gifted painter and sketcher, but has fallen in with the wrong crowd. The kid, Miles Whittaker (Ashton Sanders) is also living in the same apartment block as McCall, and one day returns home from school to find the vegetable garden lovingly tended to by another resident, Fatima (Sakina Jaffrey) has been vandalised and a garden mural overpainted with graffiti. McCall takes it upon himself to look out for Miles and keep him on the straight and narrow, offering him $250 to make good the mural and the vegetable garden.

Hearing about the death of Susan Plummer from her husband Brian (Bill Pullman), McCall reaches out to Dave York to join forces and go after whoever did this. However, York attended McCall's funeral seven years ago as did the rest of his group, and since then have all gone their separate ways while McCall changed his identity and went underground. York agrees to do whatever it takes out of their mutual respect and friendship for Susan.

Later on, McCall is driving one of his regular Lyft shifts and collects a dodgy looking passenger claiming to be en route to his six year old daughters birthday. While driving, his fare attempts to kill McCall but thanks to some evasive driving skills and his adept self defence capabilities, McCall overpowers the assailant, who has now made it into the passenger seat, shooting him through the head at very close range with his own gun. McCall dumps the body and torches the car but not before retrieving the dead mans mobile phone.

The next day, McCall drops in on the York family home under the pretext that he needs some assistance in cracking the military grade encrypted code within the assailants retrieved phone. However, McCall already suspects that York is caught up with the dead assailants plans by linking him to the retrieved mobile phone. McCall confronts York with what he believes to be the truth and that in fact it was York who finished off Plummer in Brussels having pieced together the video surveillance of the events leading up to her attack, and the fatal wound inflicted on her body, which could only have been administered by a professionally trained assassin. York comes clean and states that following McCall's staged death, all the others members of his team were disbanded and forced to take up paid contract work as assassins for hire. Plummer became a target because eventually she would have suspected that the attack in Brussels came from within her own ranks of former operatives which would invariably have led back to York, so she became a necessary loose end that needed to be tied up. And now with McCall hot on the trail he too has become a loose end.

Outside the York home, McCall is confronted by his former Team members - Resnik (Jonathan Scarfe), Ari (Kazy Tauginas) and Kovac (Garrett Golden) with York. Those team members say that they'll be coming after McCall, but McCall counters with the fact that he'll be coming after them and his one regret is that he'll only get to kill them each once! Later the next day, with the rains pouring down and a hurricane starting to whip up, York and Kovac break into McCall's apartment where Miles is redecorating the kitchen. Miles hears them approaching and hides behind a bookcase concealing a secret room while on the phone to McCall alerting him. McCall calls York while watching him remotely from the CCTV cameras set up in his home. He invites York to come get him - as he knows where he'll be. York and Kovac abandon their search having deduced where McCall is headed to, but not before capturing the now emerged Miles from his hiding hole.

As a hurricane gale force winds take hold, McCall returns to his seaside hometown, which has been evacuated. Kovac, Ari, and Resnik follow in search of McCall on foot and heavily armed, as York locates himself at the top of the town's watchtower assuming the sniper's position. As the storm whips up a frenzy with torrential rains pouring down, big gusts of wind and huge waves crashing on the shoreline, so McCall takes out Kovac, Ari and Resnik one by one in well executed and deadly efficient close quarter combat, all the while looked on by an increasingly agitated York. Enraged that McCall has gained the upper hand York shoots at the boot lid of his car, which is revealed to be concealing a bound and gagged Miles.

Gale force winds knock York off his feet and he is momentarily stunned and distracted, so allowing McCall to gain access to the roof top of the watchtower.  The two fight it out, but York is no match for McCall, who stabs his assailant and kicks him off the watchtower blooded and beaten. He crashes on to the rocks below and his corpse is quickly washed away by an incoming wave. McCall rescues Miles from the boot of the car and escorts him back to his house where he treats a gun shot wound to his leg.

Back home in Boston, Miles has returned to school and in concentrating on his artistic talents. The garden and the mural are now returned to their former glory, thanks to Miles, and as for McCall, he has returned to his former beachside home and is seen looking out across a calm and still ocean.

'EQ2' is a fairly pedestrian film that lacks the punch and pace of the first instalment. This is almost a stand alone Robert McCall origin story that traces back his roots as a former CIA Agent, mercenary and assassin - how he had to fake his own death seven years previously; the loss of his loving wife and the emotional scars that he still carries around with him; the burden of his former life and the number of lives he took in the line of duty; the death of the one person in the world he could call a true and trusted friend and ally; and the life he now chooses to lead, all alone and seemingly devoid of any other family members or close friends. All of this is going on, interweaved with McCall's particular brand of justice dispensed with his very own special set of skills; and long lingering shots of McCall deep in thought with pursed lips contemplating his next move or what he's going to say. The film plods along for the most part with the occasional action sequence to jar you awake. Whilst worthy and watchable as always Washington's portrayal of McCall as a likeable character who imparts his worldly wise sage advice upon his cornered criminal types before beating the living crap out of them, or worse, is sadly not enough to keep you fully invested. You can easily wait for the Bluray, digital download or streaming service to watch this from the comfort of your own home and save yourself the $20+ cost of cinema entry. 'John Wick 2' or 'Taken 2' this film ain't, although cut largely from the same cloth.

This film scores a rating of two claps of the Odeon Online clapperboard from a possible five.
-Steve, at Odeon Online-

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