The Equaliser is at it Again


The Equaliser, the 2014 Denzel Washington vehicle, has received a sequel. Christian Tesfaye hoped it had not, finding the protagonist morally skewed and the narration and plot derivative. He awards 4 out of 10 stars.  

It was all thanks to Liam Neeson that middle-aged men in action movies became cool. But these movies have an additional inflection as well.

It starts with Neeson’s 2008 vehicle, Taken, which had turned out to be a surprise hit. A movie full of no-nonsense thrill, it was a call back to older thrillers such as Get Carter. In a world where brutality reigned, the protagonist was only relatively moral. With impunity, Neeson’s character kills and wounds his way to the goalpost.

Other middle-aged movie stars have followed suit. They usually play a retired former assassin having to go at it one last time, and if the movie is successful, yet again in a sequel. The protagonist would also probably be reserved in character. They usually live alone and seem to have no ambition. It is as if they are secretly biding their time, waiting for an inevitable disaster so they can get to save the day.

Our most recent middle-aged hero is Denzel Washington in The Equaliser 2. We met his character, Bob, in the prequel when he tried to save a teenage sex-worker from a Russian Mafia. He succeeded to an extraordinary degree.

He has since been encouraged to help out the distressed in his neighbourhood, becoming a vigilante of sorts. He calls himself The Equalizer. He seems to be a dispassionate man that seeks to bring justice to those that prey on the weak. The only problem is that he gets to be judge, jury and enforcer of his brand of justice.

Going into the theatre to watch the movie, I thought, never mind that. Mainstream cinema is too dull without having to suspend logic. I believed I could muster the energy to disregard the obvious.

Had the villains of the sequel seen the prequel, they would have thought twice about confronting Bob in The Equaliser 2. He is going about his usual business of vigilantism when he hears of the death of an old colleague in Belgium. Although the murder is made to look like a robbery gone horribly wrong, Bob suspects otherwise.

After an assassination attempt on his life, he suspects an old buddy of his from the Defence Intelligence Agency is implicated in the crime. Confronting him, Bob learns that he is right on the money. The trouble is that it is not just his old buddy, but three other members of the same special force he used to be a part of.

It does not register with him that as mercenaries they operate outside the law the same as him. The difference is that their incentive is monetary value while his is a skewed understanding of what justice is. Unperturbed with the moral dilemma, he sets out to “equalise.”

Antoine Fuqua directed the movie in what is his fourth collaboration with Washington. Their best film remains Training Day, but the comparisons may be unwarranted. Training Day, which won Washington the Oscar he deserved for his performance in Malcolm X, was a serious drama about the politics and karma of being a dirty cop.

Their other collaboration, aside from the first Equaliser movie, was the 2016 remake of The Magnificent Seven. It was a mediocre movie made with little intention of appealing to audiences who demand an effort at a touch of complexity from the entertainment they consume.

At least, no matter the derivative quality of the plot and the characters, the first movie tried to attract an audience. It was not made to build on a commercially successful character, but presented a new world, albeit based on a 1980s TV series. It was today’s version of an original.

The sequel though has neither the bite nor the warmth the first movie was able to effect. It is a money making venture that could not care less about audiences outside the mainstream.

Washington is a respectable actor who, like all artists, has got to eat. I could condone watching him in a Tony Scott action-adventure or even The Magnificent Seven, but this is going too far.





Published on Aug 25,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 956]



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