Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) has a mission in life, a few in fact, to help out his fellow man and woman; children too. He sets about anonymously righting wrongs that he finds out about through various means, from the official - he is ex-military - to the unofficial. He learns about the latter thanks to his day job with an internet taxi service, as he can tell when one of his passengers is in need of his assistance when there's nobody they can turn to, and distance is no object, as recently he has retrieved a kidnapped little girl from as far afield from his Boston home as Turkey. But his do-goodery extends further than that, as dangerous men will notice him and bring him down...
But only bring him down emotionally, rather than physically, as this was an action movie in the era of the superhero epic, and the sequel to the earlier hit was less an adaptation of the source television series and more a building up of its star Denzel Washington as a de facto comic book hero, whose modus operandi took the form of being very good at killing people. He was a sort of benevolent Punisher character, able to exterminate any evildoer with extreme prejudice, but remaining nice to old folks and small children alike whenever his contacts in the shadowy network he has an interest in can assist him in setting the minds of the anguished at rest.
And destroying the tormentors of those self-same anguished with nary a thought to their home lives: one of the baddies here was seen with his young family in a curious aim at humanising the bad guys, something that came to nothing when having two little girls to look after did not prevent his murderous, self-serving ways otherwise. This was the strange tension in The Equaliser 2, it had been present in Antoine Fuqua's first outing with Washington in the title role but if anything it was emphasised all the more here, the depiction of a supposedly noble protagonist who does all those nice activities mentioned above, yet do not cross him lest you face the dire consequences.
In fact, do not cross anyone who is at a disadvantage, and that ranged from a prostitute a collection of yuppie assholes have roughed up in a hotel room (result: broken fingers and faces all round) to the more extensive subplot where a youth (Ashton Sanders) in peril of falling in with the local gangsters (or gangstas) is rescued by McCall who gives him a more productive way of using his time than selling drugs for guys who couldn't give a shit about him other than the money he can make them. McCall cares, that's his superpower, that’s what gives him the huge energy reserves necessary to beat up a room full of ne'erdowells in a matter of seconds, all timed to perfection on his fancy, chunky watch, plus the inclination to do all the research he needs to pull off his latest endeavour.
The main storyline was an act of revenge, more than an act of justice, really, as one of the two returning supporting players from the first film meets a sticky end while investigating a spot of international crime in Belgium, which brings in McCall to make amends. There was a loose, disparate feel to much of this for almost the entire running time until Fuqua and his screenwriter Richard Wenk brought it all together for a grand finale in an abandoned town just as a hurricane begins to make its presence felt. If that was intended to finish the movie off with a flourish (it was an unusual idea, and therefore distinctive) then it succeeded to a point, it was simply that what had gone before was so rambling there was a sense of a shade too little too late for its purpose of bringing a focus to everything that had gone before. Still, if it got a bit social worker for an action thriller, it was at least lightly engrossing, if pitched at a far older audience than the teen one who most actioners appeared to be aimed at. No bad thing, you might have said. Music by Harry Gregson-Williams.