MOVIE REVIEW: Tyler Wilson - ‘Equalizer 2’ equals too much equalizing’

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The first “Equalizer”from 2014 should best be remembered as the movie in which Denzel Washington turned a Home Depot-style hardware store into a “Home Alone” house of deadly booby traps.

“Equalizer 2,” the first sequel of Washington’s distinguished career, contains fewer grisly/creative kills, which could be either an asset or a detriment depending on the viewer. It does, however, feature much more of Denzel righting wrongs while taking random people to the airport.

Yep, retired DIA agent Robert McCall hangs up his toolbelt to become a Boston-area Lyft driver (some interesting product tie-in there), and also finds time to rescue kidnapped kids, beat up rapists, clean graffiti, mentor an impressionable teenager, locate rare art, mourn his dead wife, read books, and, eventually, avenge the death of a friend and former colleague.

It’s enough for an entire “Equalizer” series, which makes some sense considering the films are derived from an ’80s television show. As much as anyone would probably love to see Washington in more of anything, this unfortunately all takes place in a single movie, making for a rather confused and disjointed narrative.

It takes a long while for returning director Antoine Fuqua (who also made “Training Day” and that absurd “Magnificent Seven” remake with Washington) to focus on the central conflict, which involves Melissa Leo as McCall’s friend trying to unravel a murder on the other side of the world.

The film also clumsily tries to insert that impressionable teen (“Moonlight’s” Ashton Sanders) into the main adventure to mostly strained effect. There’s not much action for a big stretch either, and it plays the central murder as a mystery too easily telegraphed to be engaging.

That’s all a long-winded way of saying “Equalizer 2” is a pretty ho-hum movie, but Washington is as committed and energetic as ever. He stands perched on the top of a small list of modern-age actors who can only be described as certifiable movie stars (Tom Cruise is easily second on the list, followed by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, though his recent output leaves much to be desired).

Washington makes everything better and almost anything watchable. Even the eventual “Equalizer 3” sounds like a sound investment. Or just make the series. We could all use 22 television hours of Denzel in our lives.

•••

“Mamma Mia!” No, I Won’t Go Again

“Equalizer 2” narrowly bested another unlikely sequel at last weekend’s box office — “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” the follow-up to the 2008 ABBA musical. Original headliner Meryl Streep only appears in a handful of scenes, but most everybody else, Pierce Brosnan included, returns for another round of nonsense, plus Cher, because Cher.

Look, I love a lot of musicals, but I’m not a fan of ABBA and the first film felt like cinematic stomach flu. I pride myself in being able to watch almost anything, but I won’t do it this time around.

If it’s any consolation, “Here We Go Again” is certified fresh at Rotten Tomatoes with a near 80 percent positive rating. Go. Enjoy. Leave me out of it.

•••

Tyler Wilson can be reached at twilson@cdapress.com

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