At least half the time, Robert McCall is more of a Wish Granter/Life Saver than an Equalizer.

A kindly bookstore operator's ex-husband and his evil henchmen have kidnapped her daughter and are taking her to Turkey. She'll never see her little girl again! We'll see about that, says the Life Saver.

A Holocaust survivor who was separated from his sister when they were children is convinced she's alive, but nobody believes the sometimes confused old man. Give me a little time to look into this, says the Wish Granter.

Thing of it is, McCall's beneficiaries often don't even know the identity of their guardian angel. They just think of him as the unassuming neighborhood bookworm and Lyft driver who always has a kind word and carries himself with quiet confidence. 

Ah, but we know the truth about the widower McCall. We know he's a highly decorated former military man and ex-CIA Black Ops specialist. We know he was quietly spending his retirement in Boston, avoiding trouble — until he couldn't look the other way anymore. Now he's back in the game, but on his own terms, as a freelancer who works alone.

In "The Equalizer 2," the great Denzel Washington hits a variety of notes reprising his role as McCall, in a brilliant performance that often rises above the pulpy, blood-soaked material.

Antoine Fuqua, who directed Washington's Oscar-winning turn in "Training Day" (2001) and helmed the first "Equalizer" (2014), returns for the sequel. It's slick, violent, fast-paced, well-acted but by-the-numbers summer fare.

"EQ2" is pure B-movie in terms of plot, but we get A-list performances from wonderful actors such as Melissa Leo, who returns as McCall's former boss, Susan Plummer; Bill Pullman as Susan's husband, a historian and author; Pedro Pascal as McCall's former partner in the CIA, who has long thought McCall was dead; and Ashton Sanders (who played the teenage Chiron in "Moonlight") as Miles, a teenage neighbor of McCall's at a pivotal crossroad in his young life.

Fuqua the stylist has never been one to shy away from ominous metaphors and impressively choreographed, extended action sequences — and, oh boy, is that the case here. 

There's no real story to speak of in "EQ2." Many of the action sequences are self-contained vignettes in which McCall either quietly helps out someone he knows, or takes matters into his own hands when he happens upon a grave injustice.

The main plot line is put into motion when some hired killers take out a guy who seems to be some sort of diplomat or businessman and his wife in Belgium, and McCall eventually becomes involved. There's not much effort to tie it all together with any kind of plausible, big-picture cohesion, but no matter.

All we need to know is some very bad people have crossed Robert McCall, and that's almost always a deadly mistake.


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