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American films

The Equalizer 2 film review: Denzel Washington brings vigilante justice in old-school action sequel

Director Antoine Fuqua forgoes slick special effects and cinematography and goes for gritty, bone-crunching violence in this film that harks back to 1970s Death Wish

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2018, 12:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2018, 12:03pm

2.5/5 stars

The Equalizer 2 unspools as an old-school action film, avoiding flashy cinematography and special effects trickery in favour of playing it straight. It is blunt, humourless and brutal, and reminds of the no-nonsense action films of the 1970s and early 1980s, before “designer violence” and irony transformed the genre into something less straightforward.

The violence on display in this follow-up by director Antoine Fuqua ( The Magnificent Seven , Southpaw ) – and there is a lot of it – is sharp and bone-crunchingly real, although its effect is mitigated by the fact that nice guy Denzel Washington, cast against type as a merciless avenger, is committing a good portion of it.

Part two of the series begins with former marine and Defence Intelligence Agency spy Robert McCall (Washington) once again saving the innocent on Massachusetts’ mean streets – and, bizarrely, on the Turkish railway system.

Instead of the ruthless Russian mafia in the first film, his target this time is the murderer of a friend from his military days. As McCall tracks the killer, it starts to become clear that it’s someone he knows and trusts. But McCall is not one to let sentiment get in the way of a killing, stabbing and explosives spree.

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Vigilante films are by nature nasty pieces of work, and date back to the vicious Michael Winner/Charles Bronson collaboration Death Wish in 1974. The genre appeals to the primitive inside each of us, as such films make viewers identify with characters who ignore the civilised processes of law and order to extract a violent revenge.

And the idea in The Equalizer 2 does seem to have a primeval hold over us – even though we know McCall is doing the wrong thing, it’s difficult not to root for him.

The Equalizer 2 opens on September 13

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