Appreciating Denzel Washington: ‘Equalizer 2’ grows the legend

Denzel Washington, among the greatest movie actors of this generation, returned for perhaps the last time as Robert McCall in ‘Equalizer 2’, the 2018 motion picture which is appearing on the FX cable system this evening (November 19) in back-to-back broadcasts. 

(This evening’s encores are head-to-head with ‘SkyFall’, the best of the Daniel Craig portrayals of James Bond, Agent 007, on the SyFy Channel.)  

Always an authoritative film presence, Washington delivers solidly in this successful continuation of the powerful chronicle of the 2014 ‘Equalizer’.   (

As in the first film, the “hiding in plain sight” story of a rough man is well delivered. A restless spirit, McCall continues reading what his late wife had deemed the 100 greatest books. He is nearing the end of that intellectual journey through the great works as the film begins. 

The setting is a high-speed train racing through the night in Turkey. Sustaining his noble habit of exacting justice for those in trouble, or in a need of a friend, McCall is posing as an Islamic pilgrim. 
In the dining car, he catches the eye of a little girl – shortly before (not in her sight) delivering justice of some sort to a thug (her father, played by Adam Karst). As is his habit (and was original television series), McCall gives the bad guy a choice. A hint: the men who work for the thug mean unpleasant ends. 
The exact outcome for the boss is a mystery (a hallmark in this series), but soon we see, back in the U.S.A, the girl reunited with her mother.  In a subsequent visit to that woman’s bookstore, McCall purchases a copy of the final work in his late wife’s book list.

Tenderly delivered screen vignettes, advancing the overall story line, are included in this powerful drama. 
McCall’s time, ostensibly as a driver for an Uber-like operation, is spent improving the world for a variety of worthy souls, including an elderly Holocaust survivor (Orson Bean), a neighborly gardener named Fatima (Sakhina Jaffrey) and, most notably, a young artist named Miles (Ashton Sanders).

While each of these threads are memorable, especially after multiple viewings, his time with Miles is most powerful, evoking the tale from the first Equalizer film, in which McCall came out of ‘retirement’  to rescue a young woman (played by Chloe Grace Moretz) from a life of prostitution. 
About half-way into Equalizer 2, an exchange between McCall and Miles – who is sorely tempted to enter the world of young gangsters, in part to avenge a dead brother — seems like a preface to recent cultural conflicts playing out in America’s great cities. 

Reprising solid portrayals – echoes from McCall’s earlier life — are Bill Pullman (as Brian) and Melissa Leo (as Susan). Each is an “A-lister” for this reviewer. They render characters I admire, examples of the “servant leader” generation passing from the American scene too soon.  The character of Susan is the stronger in this endearing film marriage, with Bill an often-befuddled academic reliant on his wife’s organizational acumen and, in particular, her understanding of human frailty. 
McCall is back in the vengeance business when his dearest friend is taken in moments of brutal violence – portrayed graphically, and well-meriting the “R” rating. 

What seems like terrorism with foreign roots is actually entirely a domestic matter, centered around a group of violent rogues – a cluster of former comrades of McCall. Avoiding spoilers, these fellows (portrayed by a quartet of fine actors) will be considered in a future review.  

Robert McCall is a patriot, embodying an American idealism despite his violent labor (past and present) in the all-too-real world. He has no illusions about the foibles afflicting even the noblest men and women, but lives in affirmation of higher possibilities. 
Some would say the time of such a man has passed, in the “woke” nation where now we live. I say our nation will always need men like Robert McCall, because we live in a world of nuance, with nightmarish potential for destruction, and astounding possibilities for wholesome transformation. 

Many of the greatest fans of the Equalizer stories (television and film) anxiously await whatever come next, in the announced television reboot starring Queen Latifah.  
Both of the Denzel Washington installments of ‘Equalizer’ are heartily recommended.