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The Equalizer 2

I’m not a fan of director Antoine Fuqua. He’s given us garbage like Olympus Has Fallen, The Magnificent Seven, Shooter, Southpaw (which I only tolerated because I’m a boxing fan), and the most overrated movie ever — Training Day. Sure, it got Denzel Washington an Oscar, but it’s not very good. Well, Fuqua has now made a movie that’s given Washington his first sequel ever — Equalizer 2.

Washington is the type of actor where I would say “I would be happy just watching him read the phone book.” Yet I found out that wasn’t the case with two movies. The previously mentioned Training Day, where I felt the character was to over-the-top. And Fences from a few years ago. His acting is always solid, but if I don’t like the dialogue of the script, it’s hard to enjoy the movie. Yet it’s why he deserves credit for this mess of a movie. He actually makes it entertaining to watch, despite all the eye rolling you’ll do with the implausibility and sloppiness of the script.

There are scenes where Denzel is talking calmly, and you know he’s ready to snap a guy’s arm in half. There’s another time he realizes somebody double-crossed him, and his eyes blink fast, the way Hugh Grant does when he’s trying to be cute. There are other times he’s trying to mentor a young kid in the neighborhood that’s starting to run with gangs. And I have to admit, those moments all worked for me, despite how cliche ridden they were.

In the last Equalizer, Robert McCall (Washington) was working at Home Depot, and on the side, solving crimes and kicking butt. In this movie, he’s now a Lyft driver. And just like the HBO show where people make confessions to taxi drivers, they do this with McCall. Sometimes he’s just listening and smiling, other times offering sage advice or words of encouragement to his passengers. When a stripper gets abused by a bunch of rich yuppies, you can bet the fists are gonna fly. And how can you not laugh when he then asks them for a five star review?

There’s a plot with McCall trying to find out who killed his friend (the always terrific Melissa Leo). And a smaller plot with McCall befriending an old Jewish guy he’s given rides to, who has no family, and is trying to track down a $12 million painting that was stolen during the Holocaust. Any guesses whether McCall will walk through the door with that at the end?

There are a few fun fight scenes, one of them taking place in a car. There’s a final fight that takes place during a hurricane. People are either going to love that or hate it. I would’ve found it an interesting way to film something like this, if not for all the goofy crap that was taking place every few minutes during that hurricane.

The script in this is so poorly written, my wife and I couldn’t even figure out what the bad guy’s deal was, or what this evil syndicate was doing. It’s like they were just there for Denzel to take out. It got me thinking…the horror genre had Freddy (Nightmare on Elm Street) fight Jason (Friday the 13th). Perhaps filmmakers should get together and make a movie where Denzel fights Liam Neeson. Two guys in their mid-60s, with a special set of skills, finding out once and for all, who’s the baddest of the old geezers since Charles Bronson left the planet.

I’ll give this an extra half star for having taxis that didn’t have a “555” phone number on the side, and another half star for Moonlight’s Ashton Sanders turning in a good performance as the troubled teen. His acting felt authentic.

2 stars out of 5.