Does It Equal The First One

The Equalizer 2 Poster

 

It is the age of movie transitions, and the age of passing torches to the younger generation in hopes of establishing new legends into the mix.  Yet, it doesn’t mean that the current legends have faced their last mission.  Tonight’s movie review proves the case as the incredible Denzel Washingtonleads another movie, in hopes of bringing the success to a sequel. Can the man who made so many epic films do it again, or is this a series that needed to retire?  Let’s get into it as I review:

 

The Equalizer 2 (2018)

 

Director:

Antoine Fuqua

Writers:

Richard Wenk,  Michael Sloan (based on the television series created by)

Stars:

Denzel Washington,  Pedro Pascal,  Ashton Sanders

 

 

LIKES:

 

Acting:  Denzel is a good actor, we all know this.  His ability to play these hardened, battle scarred, internally struggling super soldiers never fails to impress, and I always enjoy his intensity when playing these characters.  Still with the finesse delivery, Denzel’s ability to deliver his dialogue is magnificent, brings inspiration and motivation to many.  Ashton Sandersachieved his role quite well, not quite as motivational, but certainly capturing the struggling artist motif of his character. A nice balance was struck between these two, which established a dynamic relationship between these two.  The rest did fine in their parts, but it was these two who held most of the screen time.

 

The Realism:  It’s an action movie, but it is grounded into the realm of reality.  Equalizer 2 does have some tense moments to spice things up, but it doesn’t resort to flashy special effects and physics defying moves to do it… mostly.  This film sticks to tactic combat, utilizing skills and the mind to play a deadly game that will deal the justice you want. While they are limited through much of the movie, the end game is where this strategy is really capitalized on it. In addition, if a player gets injured, they don’t recover quickly so that helps keep things exciting.

 

The Second Half Pace: The movie really takes off at the half way point, taking the steam to push them into the action/thriller component. Once the movie hits into this realm, it finally gets super interesting and engaging, amping up the tension and trying to keep you guessing at what will happen next.  And even better… it actually doesn’t feel like the movie is dragging by this point.

 

The Character Development: Surprisingly, the movie opens up Denzel’s character to help explain more of the backstory that molded him into the super assassin hiding behind the chiseled features.  I did enjoy learning more about the central protagonists haunting past, but also in seeing him evolve, so that he may overcome his struggles and attempt to move on to something else.  It fits well with the movie series, and shows potential for any future installments they may try to make.

 

The Dialogue:  Hands down though, my favorite part is the dialogue/writing of the movie.  Not so much in terms of story, Equalizer 2 wins points for inspirational words that only Denzel can maximize.  It’s writing that fits very well into the theme/premise of the movie, almost as if Denzel is defending the audience and trying to make them better.  Even Sanders lines are decently developed, fitting his character well and doing the lifting of establishing relationships and connecting Denzel to the characters.  Hands down this was the solidifying factor that tied the movie together.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Pace of the First Part: It helps get the movie established in that Robin Hood like atmosphere, but it dragged for me.  Equalizer 2 needs some major pushing to get us to the good stuff, with a few action appetizers to try and hold your energy.  It’s not the slowest opening, but editing could have taken some time to trim the fat and help tighten the story.

 

Predictability:  It’s easy to figure out what’s going to happen… not much more I can say about that.  The trailers have done a decent amount of revealing, but those that haven’t seen it should have no trouble figuring this out.

 

The Action:  Realistic as it may be, the action is still not quite as spiced up as the trailers tried to make it be.  Impressive as tactical combat is, the movie still doesn’t quite have all the energy and excitement I like in a film (which is often fast paced gunplay with lots of boom).  While I still did enjoy the slower combat, I would have liked to see more of it, as there are huge gaps between short lived bouts that make for a slower movie.  Yet, if you are a fan of the most recent Borne Film, you should have no problems with this presentation.

 

Story:  My least favorite aspect though is the story.  I’m not saying Equalizer 2’s tale is horrible, or the worst thing ever, but I also don’t think it is the most groundbreaking either.  The opening feels like a charity meets Robin Hood approach, a sort of toned down Death Wish to establish the setting.  After that though, I struggled with appreciating the four subplots interweaving with each other to try and craft an overall plot.  True, this multi-tiered approach opened avenues for character development, however the main plot of vengeance took many detours that felt skipped at times.  When the rabbit hole’s bottom was reached, it wound up being very lackluster, realistic and certainly making a point, but nothing that had my eyes bugging wide. Even worse, when the exciting climax did happen, the bite sort of fell out of the antagonist.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Equalizer 2 is better overall for me, though I won’t lie that it was missing that original component (e.g. clever trap battles in hardware stores) the first movie had.  It’s got great heart, fantastic writing, and smarter acting, which makes it a prime target for thriller/spy/crime dramas that have toned down action.  However, the pacing, surprise, and story of the movie require some redrawing for the next installment to really maximize the modern-day vigilante genre.  If you are a Denzel fan, I’m not going to stop you from hitting this film up, and if you are looking for a thriller/action this movie is the one.  However, I do recommend waiting for home rental on this one to maximize your funds. 

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Thriller/Crime: 7.0

Movie Overall: 6.5

 

 

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No Justice In This Crime/Drama

Roman

 

The legendary Denzel Washington is associated with so many legendary roles that will forever live in the hearts of millions.  And like many people, when I see he a movie of his about to release, I get excited I’m in store for another masterpiece.  Enter Roman J. Israel Esq, a movie that from the trailers, held potential to be an interesting biography of a powerful legal, pro-action character that was certain to stir up trouble.  Will it be powerfully emotional to fill your eyes to the brim with tears, or something else?  Robbie K here to give you some insight into yet another movie this holiday season, let’s get started.

 

LIKES:

 

The Message: Never say that a Denzel movie doesn’t deliver a powerful punch in the emotional level.  Roman J. Israel Esq, is another visual tribute to the topic of truth, honor, and the moral obligations of justice.  The whole movie portrays the struggle of holding on to your beliefs vs. diving into the acceptable flow the public/society deems normal.  We all have breaking points that push us into new areas and test our fortitude, the question is where does one cross the line and how far do they leap over it.  Roman’s tale shows the challenge quite well and more so what can happen when pushes the boundaries too far.  It will get you thinking and perhaps question your own philosophies, assuming you can get past the other parts of this movie.

 

The Acting…kind of:  Denzel still has his acting skills down pat. He portrays the awkward character quite well, capturing the serious thoughts, the quirky mannerisms, and even the speech patterns necessary for portraying the mind within.  Even more impressive though, is how well he acts out the struggles of the high stakes choices that bear heavy on his mind.  At times, one can feel the weight of the decisions bearing down on them, the anxiety of making the wrong choice radiating out in the sequences.  His supporting cast helps open up more dilemmas to tax him, but can’t say they have the most involvement in the town.

 

The Music:  The soundtrack is not the most toe tapping number, but one can appreciate the soul behind the songs selected for this movie.  There selections were choice representations of the tone of the scene, sort of artistically symbolizing Rowan’s mood and his answer to the current obstacles that plague him.  It’s a dynamic track list that constantly changes between genres, and fits so well into much of the movie, while perhaps bringing back some nostalgia for other fans.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The weaker character moments:  Despite all the quarks Denzel got, his character isn’t the most engaging or magical of the roles he has played.  Past the morals he boasts, Roman just doesn’t have a lot to him.  He was a fairly flat character, with disinterest seeming to ooze from Denzel during much of the performance, almost like he had to really push himself to play the part.  I had a hard time caring about him, the potential the trailers building failing to live up as Roman continued to just shrug more and more of the qualities I looked for.  A redeeming moment at the end got the steam going, but by then it was too late and the movie was over. It also doesn’t help that the supporting character actors don’t seem too excited in their roles, and are just as mundane as some of Roman’s personality.  The characters just aren’t engaged in the tale, and many aren’t utilized to their full potential.

 

Boring:  The emotional trials are strong, the food for thought even more of a rewarding experience, but did the movie have to be so dull?  While I never expected this film to be an action packed, guns blazing tale, I certainly didn’t expect the movie to lack so much suspense.  The plot didn’t have enough edge, there wasn’t enough action or peaceful protest, and the absence of any real villain just led to a very lackluster tale.  I had to fight sleep a couple of times in this movie, though it could be due to the long work day, but a Denzel Movie is usually more charged than what I was presented.  Which brings me to my next dislike…

 

Ambiguous:  The movie’s biggest problem for me was how aimless the plot was.  The writers didn’t seem to figure out which way they wanted to take the film, is a piece about being an activist, is it a biography, is it a crime/drama?  I couldn’t quite figure out the myself, but they settled on a little bit of everything, but didn’t hit the high-quality components of the genres.  The film could have used more crime/mystery to add the suspense, perhaps with a theme surrounding the hot political issues they try to cover, all showing the skills of the whomever Roman represented.  I don’t fell many will enjoy the approach they took, and the ambiguous story telling that was just stale and sad than anything else.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            It held such potential, but Roman Israel Esq, just couldn’t find its ground in the grand scheme of things. Denzel tried to do the heavy lifting, and accomplishes the messages of balancing morals, but outside of that lacks any big sustenance to him.  In addition, the boring pace, weaker character interactions, and ambiguous plots, the movie just fails to provide the very justice it wanted to serve.  Sad to see the legendary actor have a weaker film, but this reviewer encourages you to skip this movie and focus on the treasures that have already come out for your theater viewing pleasure, all while hoping Denzel will have another Oscar worthy film in the future. 

 

My scores:

 

Crime/Drama:  6.0

Movie Overall: 5.0

Guns, Horses, And Unbalanced Screen Time: Welcome Back To The Wild West!

seven

            It’s been a while since we had a western movie, and even longer since we had a good one. This weekend hopes to break this drought, by releasing the remake to the 1960s classic the Magnificent Seven.  Does the Wild West fit into to the modern day expectations, or will the archaic times of the past fall on blind eyes?  As always, I’m here to report on the latest films to hit theaters and give you the scoop.

 

LIKES

  • Great Cast
  • True Western Film
  • The action!

One important aspect to any Western is who you cast as the gunslingers.  In this installment, the casting director gets major props for the team assembled. Denzel Washington is the perfect lead, as his attitude and bravado are choice qualities for someone a rebellion leader. Chris Pratt balances his teams martyr attitudes by providing his comedic delivery and energy helping to relieve the tension of the movie.  The rest of the squad play their roles perfectly and brings a unique quality to the team to develop a unique posse.

While the cast is a great start, it is only one part to the Western formula.  It requires setting, simplistic goals, open frontier, lots of extras in limited clothing, and a villain you most likely will hate.  Magnificent Seven brings all these aspects in splendid detail, with a modern day design many want in the 21st century. This movie will pull you back in the days of the frontier adventure of classic Westerns from riding horses through the desert wastelands to the gun slinging battles the era was famous for, you know before the hero settles into the saloon for a drink. This film is representative of the nostalgic genre Hollywood capitalized on decades ago and is devoid of extraterrestrial twists (Cowboys and Aliens) or weird mechanical spiders (Wild Wild West) to taint the well water.

Yet the greatest component for me was the action of this movie. Magnificent Seven delivers the promised Western action, with massive bullet slinging battles unfolding for nearly half of the movie. One will certainly get an adrenaline rush as the two sides let their guns talk in high definition special effects at break neck speeds.  Our heroes use their wits and diverse skills to keep the battle dynamic, all while poor extras convulse to imaginary bullets “hitting” their bodies. The ending sequence alone kep me on the edge of my seat and provided an emotionally sitmulating climax that we hope for in these movies.  Yes, it is the typical, blockbuster popcorn tactics most films are famous for, but it works so well in this film.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Lackluster Antagonists
  • Some rapid character development
  • Unbalanced characters…at times

As I mentioned, Magnificent Seven certainly has villains representing the genre, but sadly they still didn’t shine in this film. The land baron Bogue has all the stereotypical  qualities of a baron including an insatiable greed and ruthless mechanisms to obtain his desires, but he still is quite unimpressive in other departments. Yes, I get that’s the point of most Western villains, but usually they have a set of lieutenants to enforce their roles. In this film, many of the antagonists  were not that impressive and many of their “victories” were cheap, conventionally written ploys to maximize their money.  In addition, the hyped up fights sometimes are drawn to a hasty, unchoreographed conclusion that left me disappointed. Oh well, at least the uncredited extras were capable of a good shot or two.

Another limitation for me was the rushed backstories of most of the characters. Magnificent Seven’s cast has some complicated histories, and we get a decent look at the skeletons that dwell in their closets.  There could have been more though to it though, not only to develop them more, but give some of the band more screen time. The quick overcoming of their personal fears or the convenient brotherhood formed was a little bit of a stretch for me. Fortunately they had the action to distract you from this limitation and keep the pace moving.

Finally, the biggest dislike was the unbalanced use of the seven.  I know, the top billed are destined to get the most screen time so directors get their money’s worth. Denzel, Pratt, and Hawke lead the cavalry, complete with detailed backstory, impressive set of skills, and a majority of the lines. Our other cavalcade have their moments as well, including meme worthy one liners, impressive moves, and unique costumes to seal their place.  Yet there were times where they were severely underutilized, reduced to quite mumblings or a fleeting dive into the the building. This is mainly true for the Warrior (Martin Sensmeier) and the Outlaw (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) who although have some fitting moments, are off camera for much of the film and almost thought to be dropped out of the film at random times.

 

The VERDICT:

            If you want a Western, Magnificent Seven is certainly your best shot.  This production will immerse you into the world of cowboys and well more cowboys, with engaging characters for you to grip to. However, the action is the selling point of this movie and provides the exciting edge that has been lacking for much of this month.  Yes, I would have liked a little more character balance and better villains, but overall I really enjoyed this movie.  I certainly recommend this movie for a theater visit to a wide variety of audience members, but be warned this is a darker version of the tale you love.  And darkness leads to violence that may be a bit too much for some younger audiences.

 

My scores:

Action/Western: 9.0

Movie Overall: 7.5