Review – This Movie Needs More than a Lyft (“The Equalizer 2”)

This movie marks the first time Denzel Washington has ever done a sequel. Ever. Doesn’t seem likely in a career that spans some 40 plus years in television, film, and the stage, but it’s true! Does this mean he’ll soon be making sequels for The Magnificent Seven? Flight? Inside Man? Hmmmmmm…

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Based on the 80’s TV series of the same name, Washington again plays Robert McCall, a retired CIA black ops specialist who, after taking out some very bad guys in the 2014 film, has moved and taken up a new, quiet life as a Lyft driver… or has he? Y’see, Robert just can’t stop being a good guy and that means either rescuing those that need rescuing, giving sage advice to the lonely, or beating the crap outta people who really need a good beat-down. Aside from his part-time drives around town, he befriends Miles Whittaker (Ashton Sanders), a young man with dreams of being an artist, but has unhealthy ties to a local gang.

Meanwhile, Robert’s past comes back to haunt him as his old CIA boss, Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) is killed in Brussels investigating a peculiar suicide of a CIA operative. But was it a suicide or a well-orchestrated hit? Looks like Robert has to rely on his ex-partner, Dave York (Pedro Pascal), to get answers, but they’re not gonna be pleasant ones. Ping-ponging from Brussels to Washington D.C. and back to Boston, the multiple stories told revolve in and around Robert and his quest to find the killer(s) of Susan.

Whether it’s the impending hurricane approaching the coastline or finding a priceless painting back to its rightful owner, this 2hr scattershot movie suffers ‘sequelitis’. Even though Richard Wenk wrote the first movie, his second screenplay is a mish-mash of singular events thrown together with the loosest of threads, instead of a straight linear storyline like last time. Directed again by Antoine Fuqua, the movie lacks the zip, drive, and ambition the first one had. This sequel finds Robert more of a detective in his work, which is all well and good, but the pacing and tone is all over the map.

Moving at a snail’s pace, Robert’s investigation is long, dull, and lacks the energy and creativity he injected the first time. The only redeemable factor about this movie is Sanders, who was SO recognized for his work in Moonlight. He’s the only reason to see this movie and to see him and Denzel go toe-to-toe, especially during a heated scene that is epic. Other than that, this movie is standard with generic bad guys, a third act shoot-out (ho-hum), ridiculous plot holes, contrived story additions, and dumb side-plots. I can see why Denzel doesn’t do sequels! This is why!

Jack Reacher (2012)

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John Wick, part Equalizer, Jack Reacher is based on a series of Lee Child’s novels about an ex-military man with a ‘particular set of skills’, who roams the land helping the helpless. Although he’s supposed to be a brutish 6’4 in the books, Tom Cruise (5’7) makes up for that by his sheer voracity in playing the part.

We begin with a killing spree in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: a former U.S. sniper (Joseph Sikora) has apparently gunned down five innocent bystanders from across a river. But why? And why would this killer ask for some guy named Jack Reacher to help him out? Detective Emerson (David Oyelowo) and D.A. Alex Rodin (Richard Jenkins) think this is a slam-dunk conviction, but after Reacher arrives, he finds his client has been brutally attacked in prison and is in a coma. He immediately wants to see the evidence, and meets counselor Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike).

Pretty soon, things start going south in Reacher’s own private investigation. Is there a cover-up going on? And if there is, who’s behind it and why? One thing’s for sure, there’s a whole lotta people that want to make sure that Jack doesn’t find anything, and that makes Jack a target for many, many knock-down, drag-out fights. He finally zeros in on a shooting range where, apparently, the owner Martin Cash (Robert Duvall) knows more than should. Finally, Jack uncovers the nefarious plot, clears his buddies name, frees Helen from being held hostage, and kills all the bad guys in a bullet-flying, fist-pounding third act.

Adapted screenplay and directed by Christopher McQuarrie (Usual Suspects, Edge of Tomorrow), this isn’t your A-typical shoot’em up; it has a wonderfully complex detective story wrapped inside this visually stunning film. McQuarrie doesn’t just make a standard bang-bang boring movie, but makes you think as well; something he’s known for in his other films as well. And talk about the fight choreography! Yikes! It’s just about the most nail-biting and hard-core stuff you’ve ever seen. Cruise even got severely hurt doing his own stunts.

And the casting is just spot-on, too. Cruise is lean, mean, and scary-looking, Pike is beautiful and on her game, and Oyelowo is perfect. The only problem is that age-old ‘sequelitis’ when it came for part two. Jack Reacher 2: Never Look Back which came out in 2016 and lacked McQuarrie’s writing or directorial vision. What did it have? A boring and dragged-out plot that turned Reacher into a regular thug, rather than a thinking-man’s worst nightmare with fists.

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