If you’re familiar with the budding franchise, you know that Denzel Washington can deliver some great kidney busters interspersed with alternatingly warm and stern lessons about life. You also know that the first movie ends with The Equalizer himself turning a Home Depot into a booby-trapped war flashback like Hank Hill took some notes from the Vietcong. It’s a towering moment of dadditude from a movie that already spent plenty of time being a father figure to random teens, handing out teaching moments, and reading a long list of high school required reading books because you have nothing better to do with your middle-aged normcore ass.
The Equalizer 2 modernizes the fusion of patio grill-master and one man army with top-tier military operator sheen and a whole lot of fathering whatever comes within reach. Denzel’s character is shooting stern but fair lessons at people as causally as his bullets and filling in the rest with self-aware, embarrassing dad charm. He’s calmly and violently tut-tutting gangsters and bourgeois brutes alike all while taking a wayward surrogate son [name] under his wing and supporting a grandfather figure. Mixed in with all the fatherliness is his standing as an invisible pillar of the community, showing off authentic Boston/South Shore roots (not the Marky Mark Bosploitation hero cop garbage). There’s some character confusion when this saint of black fatherhood, singlehandedly holding Dorchester up on his back, broadly supports the US imperial machine in one scene and gives his fledgling dad-in-training a copy of a Tanehisi Coates book.
Most of the time Denzel moves through the movie like a videogame protagonist. Working on random sidequests as they pop up while regularly hopping back to the main storyline. Taking on every woe a random villager presents him and fixing problems mostly through violence. Eventually the movie culminates in what is essentially a round of Rainbow 6 Seige on Cape Cod during a nor’easter. Denzel, as operator codename Pullupyourpants vs his old pals Seal Team Six. He kills one college bud with a harpoon and another with an entire bakery. When the ocean spray clears and his old friend who never really grew up is KIA and his surrogate son has been simultaneously rescued and taught another hard-earned life lesson, Denzel has made the transition from a dad who’s been around the block and knows a thing or two, to dad who was young once and still knows how to party someone into the pacific ocean if he has to.
The Equalizer was a buildup of dadness that ended in a crescendo of reasonably priced 2x4s and violence. The Equalizer 2 started on that previous peak and rose up into that stormy Massachusetts sky to soar on gusts of pure dadalism. What sort of dad and daddish activities will The Equalizer 3 bring? Denzel orating lazily on a ride mower, simultaneously teaching both his son and grandson how to tie a tie? Larry from the office is going to blow up the community garden as a stunt for his run for town council? Their conflict takes them from a tense negotiation in the pizza zone of a Chuck-E-Cheese to a climactic gunfight, rolling for cover in the armchair recliner store? Wall mounted TVs showing college baseball, exploding as the boys get their energy out? I don’t know, I only know that it’s going to blast me with dad rays so hard my vasectomy might reverse, and I’m almost okay with that.