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Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Mission: The Equalizer 2

“Peppermint” is also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

Denzel Washington returns as vigilante do-gooder Robert McCall in director Antoine Fuqua’s “Equalizer 2,” a slightly superior sequel to the 2014 hit. This outing takes more of a globe-trotting approach, with scenes set in Boston, Washington, D.C., and Brussels, Belgium. But before we get to any of that we see McCall, with shaved head and scraggly beard, on a train in Istanbul, Turkey, dispensing his own brand of justice in under thirty seconds and helping a Boston book store owner (Tamara Hickey) get her daughter (Rhys Olivia Cote) back from her abusive kidnapper husband (Adam Karst).

After that it’s back to Boston, where McCall is the city’s most concerned Lyft driver. His concern is for more than just the safety and well-being of his passengers though. He also checks in on the book store owner and her daughter to make sure they are okay. This makes McCall unique in that he is not just interested in punishing those who do bad things, he also wants to make sure that what he does is right and good and that things do in fact work out that way.




While I praise “Equalizer 2” for being more character-oriented and showing the good man who McCall is on the inside in spite of his ability to hurt and kill people, the movie takes it a bit too far with an old Holocaust survivor (Orson Bean) who thought his sister died in a concentration camp and claims a very valuable painting belongs to him. I get the purpose of this subplot, and while it doesn’t totally weigh the movie down it is completely unnecessary. There are other scenes that make clear who McCall is and what he does and how much he cares. This is some fat that could have been trimmed.

As a guardian angel of the community, McCall takes under his wing a directionless young man named Miles Whittaker (Ashton Sanders). Miles is a talented artist and McCall is worried about him ruining his life by hustling drugs on street corners. This is a subplot that ties into the main story and pays off big dividends. Their relationship also gives the movie its best scenes, as McCall takes on the role of father figure for a young man in desperate need of one. In one rare instance the usually stoic McCall blows up at Miles after a heated confrontation. That’s the great thing about stoic, reserved characters like McCall—when they do get emotional, you pay attention.

Equalizer2 2
A fantastic movie could be made just about a caring, older black man who passes on wisdom and experience to a young black man who needs it or he might head down a wrong path. That movie is here in “The Equalizer 2,” but given that this is an “Equalizer” movie, then main thrust of the story is about McCall re-teaming with an old buddy (Pedro Pascal) to solve the murder of a longtime friend and colleague (Melissa Leo). The investigation sends McCall down a spirally path of intrigue, double-crosses, and violence that is suspenseful and has strong momentum.

“The Equalizer 2” is a step up from the previous movie. Likewise, Robert McCall is a step up from the usual more one-dimensional vigilante hero archetype. Late in the movie it’s noted that the car McCall drives is a Malibu. That is a fine car to be sure, however, as someone who remembers the 1980s television show starring Edward Woodward on which these movies are based, I have to ask: When will he get the Jaguar? Let’s hope that in the next movie we find out. Let’s also hope that it doesn’t take four years to make it. Rent it.

Also New This Week

Peppermint

“Peppermint” is the reason action movies get the stigma of being stupid. For every character driven, well-directed, perfectly paced action movie like “The Equalizer 2” that gives action movies one step forward, we have a ridiculous, silly, and pointless movie like “Peppermint” sending them two steps back.

The movie stars Jennifer Garner as suburban housewife Riley North. After her husband (Jeff Hephner) and daughter (Cailey Fleming) are mercilessly gunned down in a drive by shooting at the behest of L.A. drug kingpin Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba), Riley bashes the cop investigating the crime (John Gallagher Jr.) in the head, runs off, vanishes for five years, then comes back to L.A. for revenge. In the intervening time, she supposedly found her way to far off places like Thailand where she learned weapons training and hand to hand combat skills. Yeah, because I’m sure people on street corners in Asian countries hand out brochures on schools where such things are taught.

Back in the USA, she hunts down the gang bangers responsible, kills them, and displays their bodies in a theatrical way. It’s like she’s one part Paul Kersey from “Death Wish” and one part Hannibal Lecter from “The Silence of the Lambs.” Throw in her badgering of an alcoholic father by looking at this license and threatening him, and you could also say she is part Tyler Durden from “Fight Club.” The scene also gives a glimpse into her twisted sense of justice and what’s right. At one point the movie notes that Riley was prescribed anti-psychotic medication, which she claims she never took. Perhaps she should have.

One of the broader points made in “Peppermint” is that Riley becomes a social media sensation. People see her single-handedly taking down crime and corruption and keeping her tent city skid row neighborhood crime free, and she goes viral with a strong hash tag following. I can’t help but think, however, that the innocent bystander whom she car jacks would disagree with all of the praise and adoration.

Peppermint2

The action scenes are groan inducing since the gang bangers are all a bunch of anxious, disorganized idiots. Not that they should be. Apparently this gang is so hard core that no one dare challenge them. Cops won’t go near them. Riley’s take down of the gang is supposed to be momentous and against the odds. As it plays out, the gang bangers might as well be pop up paper targets. Dramatically speaking, it would have the same effect.

“Peppermint” also has one of those moments where all the villain has to do is pull the trigger. Instead, we get toying and monologuing when we should have a swift and abrupt end. Lord knows I was praying for one. Again, idiotic garbage like this is why people think action movies are the purview of the brain dead. In the case of “Peppermint,” they’re not wrong. Skip it.

More New Releases: “Unbroken: Path to Redemption,” sequel to the 2014 Angelina Jolie-directed movie about the postwar life of World War II hero Louis Zamperini, starring Samuel Hunt as Zamperini; “Smallfoot,” animated tale about a Yeti out to prove the existence of humans, starring the voice talent of Zendaya, Channing Tatum, and Danny DeVito; “Galveston,” about a dying hitman who returns to his hometown of Galveston where he plans his revenge, starring Ben Foster, Elle Fanning, and Beau Bridges; and “Lizzie,” a reimagining of the infamous 1892 murders of the Borden family, starring Chloë Sevigny and Kristen Stewart.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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