FRIDAY, JULY 20, 2018 -- Once upon a time, it was deemed appropriate that when a person turns a certain age, they slow down an take it easier. For an actor, that would mean to take roles that only require witty dialogue and contemplative discussions. Every once in a while an aging actor would take a role with other aging actors about the aches and pains of getting old.


But Hollywood found out that people like films with aging action heroes beating the crap out of younger guys. They successfully pulled it of with a 60-year old Sidney Poitier joining up with a much younger Tom Berenger in "Shoot To Kill". Before that, John Wayne's last few films featured him as an old geezer chasing bad guys. But even at that, the old fart as action hero was a somewhat stiff piece of work.


I guess it was Liam Neeson who changed all that when, at age 56 he starred in "Taken" that had him running and diving and involved in close-quarter combat with several villains at a time. He literally walked away from complex roles like "Schindler's List", "Michael Collins", and "Gangs of New York" to be a geriatric action hero. Now here is two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington cranking out his third geriatric action hero in five years ("Safe House", "The Equalizer").

This is Washington's fourth collaboration with director Antoine Fuqua since is Oscar winning performance in "Training Day"; they seem to like working with each other. This is also the first sequel for Denzel. He reprises his role as retired CIA agent and black ops soldier who has decided to defend the defenseless. The character was revived from the 1980s TV show of the same name starring British actor Edward Woodward.


This film opens with a well-paced fight scene on a train with McCall saving a kidnapped girl from her abusive father and his thug friends. Fuqua wastes little time reacquainting us with McCall and the things he can do before he takes us back to Boston where we find McCall's cover job is as a Lyft driver. We quickly learn that he has integrated his Lyft gig with aiding victims when he enacts revenge on the perpetrators of a gang rape on a passenger of his.


Great, two quick action sequences in the first 15 minutes of the film...delightful. The we get introduced to the kid next door, an elderly Jewish guy (Orson Bean) who misses his lost love, his old boss Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) from the CIA and her husband Brian (Bill Pullman), some guy and his wife executed in Belgium, some thugs who rob Susan in Belgium, McCall's former partner Dave (Pedro pascal), some Boston street gang members, and a couple of others from a long list of characters. Far too many characters than you want!


Naturally, Fuqua understand the importance of proper character development, so all of these characters are fairly well developed, even if their stay on-screen is short. However, as is often the case a couple of the characters could have easily been omitted if for no other reason than for pacing. There are long droughts between action scenes that also convolute the plot that has McCall looking to avenge the murder of his friend. This is a huge narrative flaw by writer Richard Wenk ("Magnificent Seven", "The Expendables 2", "Equalizer") that should have been corrected by Fuqua.


Denzel is, once again, on top of his acting game delivering primo lines along with brutal punishment to the bad guys. But even he can save a story only so much. There is just too much time spent on too many incidental characters despite the well choreographed action sequences.


It almost seems as though the film should have been a miniseries with all the characters and sub-plots. The good thing is the film can exist as a stand alone; it's not necessary to see original.


"Equalizer 2: is a fairly decent action film that gets bogged down by an overly involved narrative, too many incidental characters, and too many long gaps between the very good action scenes.   -- GRADE C --   GEOFF BURTON