Entertainment & Arts

Is The Equalizer 2 just a 'middle-aged male fantasy?'

Denzel Washington Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Denzel is a two-time Oscar winner

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again isn't the only sequel released this summer, although you'd be forgiven for thinking so.

But if you'd rather run naked through an open plan office than listen to an Abba song, never fear, Denzel's here.

The Oscar-winning Hollywood actor - or should we say, legend - that is Mr Washington, is back on the big screen in The Equalizer 2.

The 63-year-old returns as the avenging hero Robert McCall and this time around the CIA black ops specialist is trying to save his chums Dave and Susan (Pedro Pascal and Melissa Leo).

It's action-packed - even the trailer throws more punches than Rocky Balboa - but what did the critics think?

Well... it's fair to say they're pretty split.

The Guardian's Charles Bramesco described Antoine Fuqua's film as "an uninteresting follow-up to the 80s TV reboot" that "wastes a star turn from the Oscar-winning actor."

He adds the film has a "plot that reads like middle-aged male fantasy".

Writing in the Chicago Sun Times, Richard Roeper said: "It's slick, violent, fast-paced, well acted but by-the-numbers summer fare."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Melissa Leo plays an old friend of McCall who finds herself in trouble while investigating a murder

Peter Debruge of Variety was more scathing: "Judging by the ponderous tone and pace, Fuqua thinks he's making high art (likely aspiring to something existential like Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samourai), but this is a grisly exploitation movie at best."

Some found the script problematic.

Niles Schwartz wrote in Slant magazine: "The film juggles too many B stories beneath the main storyline of the Belgian murder mystery.

"Set against Washington's composure and startling invincibility (in the entire film, his opponents land at most two blows against him, neither of which seem to faze the man), everyone else comes off as comparably faceless."

And Forbes's Scott Mendelson felt the film was confused: "Even among [Washington's] straight-up genre flicks, this one doesn't come anywhere near the heights of Devil in a Blue Dress or Out of Time.

"It can't decide if it wants to be trashy like Ricochet or distinguished like Manchurian Candidate. As a result, it's something of a muddle."

One reviewer was clearly concerned that an Equalizer 3 could now be in the works.

David Erlich wrote in IndieWire: "The Equalizer 2" might know what death is, but it doesn't know how to deal with it in an interesting way.

"Worst of all, it leaves the door open for The Equalizer 3."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Denzel won the best actor Oscar for Training Day in 2002, also directed by Antoine Fuqua

Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly clearly wanted to like the film - but just couldn't.

"Washington is one of those actors who can't not be interesting (ditto for his co-star Melissa Leo). But Fuqua seems determined to put him to the test with uncharacteristically grim and low-key direction, assisted by Richard Wenk's ludicrously contrived script."

K Austin Collins of Vanity Fair concurs: "Washington - indisputably one of our greatest living movie stars and a guy who could get me to watch most anything, sometimes to my detriment - absolutely has a keen sense of his character. It's there in every sceptical cock of his head, every sly, knowing grimace.

"But The Equalizer 2 is too much of a dull slog for any of that to pop with Washington's usual ace charisma. The movie is a bog; Washington's merely wading through it."

Ouch.

Nevertheless, some reviewers had a warmer response.

The New York Times's Manohla Dargis enjoyed watching a master of his craft.

"Like all great actors, Mr Washington commits to the performance, but every so often he also breathes fire, imbuing a scene with such shocking ferocity and bone-deep moral certitude that everything else falls blissfully away."

Chris Klimek of NPR also praised Washington's performance: "The Equalizer 2 is a reasonably well-written and (of course) beautifully acted serving of geriatric-virility violence porn, with Washington on the trail of Leo's assassins."

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