For all the movies he’s made, Denzel Washington agreed to do a sequel only once.
In fairness, projects on the order of “Another Training Day” or “The Next Flight” might have been difficult if not impossible for him, but one of the two-time Oscar winner’s vehicles very obviously lent itself to a follow-up if he so chose. Inspired by the 1980s television series, “The Equalizer” was action-adventure fare that expectedly became one of Washington’s biggest hits.
Thus, it was something of a no-brainer that he would reteam several years later with director Antoine Fuqua — who also directed the first picture, as well as Washington’s “Training Day” — for 2018’s “The Equalizer 2,” currently playing on Starz. Though British actor Edward Woodward made his own mark as ex-government agent turned troubleshooter Robert McCall in the TV version, Washington brought something extra to the role … his cooler-than-cool persona, which worked extremely well for his portrayal of an enigmatic man very good (and sometimes very lethal) at what he does.
“The Equalizer 2” ups the personal odds for McCall, since a former associate and friend is murdered, naturally putting him on the trail of those responsible. Though the tragedy initially is deemed the result of a robbery gone wrong, McCall finds evidence to suspect there’s more to it, and he applies his expertise in intelligence work to the case. When he’s almost taken out himself while working as a Boston ride-share driver, he’s certain that he’s onto something much bigger than was thought originally.
While that plot alone might be enough to sustain “The Equalizer 2,” returning screenwriter Richard Wienk is smart to let Washington display various facets by giving him several subplots. One involves his attempt to help a Holocaust survivor (Orson Bean, who died tragically in a car-pedestrian accident earlier this year) recover a painting of the latter’s sister, while another makes McCall the mentor of an aspiring artist (Ashton Sanders) who lives in the same apartment complex.
Those stories give Washington solid opportunities to show his more tender side, but make no mistake, he still gets ample opportunity to bring on the tough stuff … particularly in the climactic sequence that pits McCall against several well-armed foes, and throws in an approaching hurricane for good measure.
It’s possible that “The Equalizer 3” could still happen — Fuqua, at least, has indicated that he’d be game for it — but if it doesn’t, “The Equalizer 2” will stand as a respectable closing chapter of a franchise that has served its star quite nicely.