I know that my job is more fun than your job because my job is to see movies and write about them, but sometimes, in this job, you see a movie like “The Equalizer 2” and then you have to say something interesting about it — in complete sentences! — and it’s taxing because how do you write something engaging and insightful about the cinematic equivalent of sifting through spreadsheet data?
“The Equalizer 2,” the sequel to the 2014 hit — Denzel Washington’s first sequel, mind you — is a dour, sour and overlong slog that manages to bore even when it’s snapping necks, exploding heads and impaling henchmen with harpoons.
I wasn’t a fan of the original, also directed by Antoine Fuqua, but it at least looked good — courtesy of Omaha cinematographer Mauro Fiore. But Fiore’s out this time, and the visuals lack much in the way of pizazz.
Besides that, the action is choppily edited. The quick bursts of ultraviolence are too quick to leave any kind of impression.
For a better example of how to do this old-killer-comes-out-of-retirement story, look to the current industry standard: the “John Wick” franchise. Those perfectly paced movies tell their stories through beautifully choreographed action. But “The Equalizer 2” traffics mostly in long, hard stares.
This is shoddy, schlocky straight-to-video junk that doesn’t even have the self-awareness to enjoy its own shoddy, schlocky junkiness.
There are a few fitfully engrossing subplots, and Denzel remains ever a compelling, likable screen presence, but, good lord, whose idea of fun is this?
Denzel reprises his role as Robert McCall, an ex-CIA black-ops killer who now works as a Lyft driver and moonlights as a vigilante, helping out folks in trouble.
This premise, which reflects the 1980s CBS series on which the movies are based, has promise. It’s sort of like an ultraviolent version of “Amelie,” if Amelie also knew how to efficiently kill a man with a corkscrew.
Denzel befriends his neighbors and Lyft passengers and helps them solve their problems: a teenage artist (played by “Moonlight” star Ashton Sanders) who’s being recruited by a gang. A Muslim woman whose garden has been destroyed in a presumed hate crime. An elderly Holocaust survivor trying to prove that he’s the artist of a $12 million painting.
It’s satisfying to watch Denzel help them, in the same way it was satisfying in the “Equalizer” TV series and the similar, more recent CBS series “Person of Interest.”
It’s similarly satisfying when Denzel bludgeons a room full of coke-snorting trust-fund bros for raping a woman. This movie is at its best when it stays close to the ground, when it’s simply about a good-hearted killer doing his bloody altruism.
But “The Equalizer 2” is only interested in this occasionally. Most of the movie is just boring spy crap.
Denzel’s — I know the character’s name is Robert, but Denzel is Denzel is Denzel — old friend from the CIA (Melissa Leo) is killed. He means to avenge her, which means reconnecting with his old black-ops murder buddy (Pedro Pascal). They embark on a by-the-numbers investigation that leads exactly where you’d expect it to.
There are a handful of good scenes: the aforementioned bro-beatdown, Denzel’s various interventions with his friends and neighbors. But “The Equalizer 2” is mostly just content to crawl along the obvious twists and turns of its drawn-out plot, on the way to a finale that is basically just an old Western shootout, the setting a small abandoned town during the middle of a hurricane.
Seventeen years ago, Denzel and Fuqua (and Mauro Fiore) made a great film together. But no collaboration since 2001’s “Training Day” has lived up to that promise.
Fuqua is clearly a talented director, but his movies are just so punishingly glum. To a film, Fuqua’s efforts (“Shooter,” “Magnificent Seven,” “Tears of the Sun”) have been good action movies weighed down by flabby running times, uninvolving stories and an overall aura of joylessness.
But neither he nor Denzel have ever made a movie this dull before.
7 ways Omaha moviegoers can save money at the box office
By Micah Mertes / World-Herald staff writer
Much ado has been made about AMC’s decision to make its $5 Tuesday movie deal a permanent one (for those who are AMC Stubs loyalty members).
But it’s not the only way you can score a cheaper admission to first-run movies* in Omaha.
These are the secrets of the frugal Omaha moviegoer.
Note: Prices may vary if a screening is 3D or IMAX.
* At the second-run Westwood Cinemas, movies are $2.50 before 4 p.m. and $3.25 after. Tickets on Tuesdays are $2.