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Movie Review

Good thing Robert McCall doesn't have a lawn. You just don't know how far he'd go if someone didn't get off it.

Oh, McCall's a good guy in lots of respects. A great one, some would say. It's not every Lyft driver who'd regularly shuttle a kind-but-senile old man around Boston for a couple of quarters. Or who'd selflessly become a father figure offering good, practical life-lessons to at-risk youth. Or who'd wile away his off hours scrubbing graffiti off the wall of his apartment building.

When Miles (a teen who has knack for art but a penchant for skipping school) spies McCall cleaning those bricks, Miles reminds him that it's not McCall's job to fix someone else's mess. Get somebody else to do it, Miles suggests. Anybody else.

"I guess anybody could do it, but nobody does, Miles," McCall tells him as he keeps scrubbing away.

And all that's great. Really.

But McCall's kindly do-gooding can also get a bit … extreme.

See, McCall's real talent isn't cleaning bricks. It's shedding blood. If he hears some girl's been kidnapped, he'll get her back, even if he has to hack apart a dozen bad guys to do so. If he suspects one of his Lyft clients has been mishandled in some way, he'll find the villains and mishandle them—bone by bone, if necessary.

McCall gets a little help on occasion from Susan Plummer, a former supervisor from his shadowy, violent past. She knows that sometimes wrongs could use some righting, that McCall's often the right wrong guy for such jobs. They're kindred spirits, in a way, and good friends. Why, Susan even tells McCall that she's his only friend, and she might be right.

So when Susan herself is killed and the evidence points to a wider conspiracy, McCall knows what he has to do. Anybody could bring Susan's killers to justice, but McCall figures that nobody will.

Nobody, 'cept McCall.

And his style of "justice" comes at the end of a blade.

Positive Elements

We've covered this already, but perhaps it bears repeating: McCall's motivational barrels are loaded with good intentions. He sees himself as something akin to an ethical janitor—someone who scrubs out society's worst stains, the stubborn ones no one dares touch. And he tries to leave his little corner of the world a little cleaner, fresher and perhaps smelling of lemon.

Of course, McCall's approach to said "cleaning" is morally messy itself, as we'll see. But those whom he helps don't argue with the results. He rescues a little child from her abductor and his henchmen, swooping her back home and into the arms of her mother (even though Mom has no clue who her daughter's savior might be). He takes on a whole drug gang to save Miles from its problematic influence. And usually when he takes action, he at least gives those malcontents a chance—one last opportunity—to turn from their evil ways and do the right thing. (They never seem to take him up on it, but hey, at least it's something.)

McCall helps in other ways, too. He doesn't just battle a gang for Miles: He starts paying the would-be artist to do a little painting for him, requiring he go to school and read a good book or two as part of the deal. He reunites an old man with something he'd thought lost long ago.

Spiritual Content

Denzel Washington, one of entertainment's most prominent Christians, brings a bit of his faith into nearly every role he takes these days. As such, The Equalizer 2 is more than a paper-thin actioner: It is, in some respects, a morality play, one in which Washington's McCall serves as a divine hand of retribution, wreaking vengeance on those who've gone awry. He's no pure innocent, McCall himself admits, and he says that he pays for his sins every day of his life. But it’s clear he believes in a divine sense of good and evil, and that what we do matters.

The movie gives another explicit nod to this notion of divine judgment via Miles. The teen signs his paintings with an image of a boxer (representing his deceased brother) wielding the "right hand of God." That hand, he tells McCall, can either take you to heaven or, well, to that other place.

Between violent slaughters, McCall sits down with a villain to chat about morality.

"We all got to pay for our sins," McCall insists.

"Guess what?" the villain counters. “There is no sin. No virtue. Just s--- people do." Those sentiments are repeated throughout the film: McCall saying that it’s important to do the right thing, his enemies saying that what’s “right” is an illusion. “There are no good and bad people anymore,” he says. “No enemies. Just … unfortunates.”

McCall dresses up in the garb of an Islamic imam while in Turkey. One of his neighbors is a gardener who covers her hair, suggesting that she’s also Islamic. We see crosses and Christian icons on walls and lying on tables. Someone wears a cross around their neck. We learn that McCall’s late wife once ran a bakery called “Our Daily Bread.”

Sexual Content

Investigating an apparent murder-suicide, in which the victims were a husband and wife, Susan and her investigative partner, Dave, discuss the possibility of infidelity (potentially either straight or gay). When McCall meets Susan after a mission, he says that it had a happy ending, adding quickly, “no pun intended.”

Violent Content

As a Lyft driver, McCall picks up a woman who's obviously in a great deal of pain and anguish. While never stated explicitly, that scene and a follow-up encounter with several of her young, affluent bosses and coworkers (where we learn that she’s an intern) suggest that she was drugged and sexually assaulted, perhaps gang-raped.

McCall does pretty horrific damage to scores of baddies, killing many of them. We hear the sounds of several bones break (he asks one victim what hand he uses before crushing the other one), and he snaps two or three necks, too. He juliennes a few unfortunates with knives, skewering one in the back of the neck. One antagonist meets his bloody end via a harpoon-like skewer to the face. McCall gouges out someone’s eye. He shoots one man (partly off-camera) several times (after breaking several of the man's bones) and blows up another, who lies on the ground with his charred innards exposed. A guy is stabbed in the gut before being thrown off a ledge, bouncing off the ground below. McCall smashes a teapot into some guy’s face.

A husband and wife are killed by ruthless executioners: One killer shoots the woman in the back of the head while her husband watches, then stuffs the barrel of the gun into the man’s mouth and pulls the trigger. Blood splashes across the family pictures behind him. (We also see reenactments of that murder several times, along with the bloody crime scene.)

A woman is assaulted in a hotel room: Her assailants bounce her head off pictures and mirrors and throw her into walls. She fights back, punching and kicking the men and stabbing one in the leg. But the men get the upper hand, closing the door on the rest of the assault. (No relief for the audience, though: Later, we see her receive a fatal stab wound to the chest.) Crime photos document the aftermath, displaying the woman’s bloodstained corpse curled up on the floor.

Several people are shot, though not always lethally. People attack McCall with guns and knives. A fight takes place during a raging hurricane. We hear vague references to the violent nature of McCall’s old gig, and hear that most folks think he’s dead. We learn that McCall’s brother was shot and killed by a gang. A rival gang encourages Miles to seek revenge, pressing a gun in his hand and telling him to not come back until he’s out of bullets.

Crude or Profane Language

"Don’t curse," McCall tells Miles. But while Miles listens, few others do.

We hear the f-word more than 25 times and the s-word at least another 15. The n-word is hurled about half-dozen times, sometimes in the movie’s background music. Characters also utter “a--,” “b--ch”, “h---” and “p-ss.” God’s name is misused four times, once with “d--n.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

Several people pour and drink vodka shots on a train. A dilapidated apartment appears to be a drug den, and its two inhabitants are quite high. A classy apartment or hotel room seems to be the site of another drug-fueled get together: We’re treated to a quick montage of images picturing people snorting cocaine and taking unnamed pills.

When Miles asks McCall for something to drink, he’s offered water or tea. “What do I look like, Jackie Chan?” Miles complains. Wine is present at a dinner. McCall warns Miles to “stay off those corners,” implying that Miles was or might be tempted to sell drugs to make ends meet.

Other Negative Elements

Unknown ruffians scrawl graffiti on outside wall art and rip up someone’s lovingly tended garden. One character offers this sage nugget: “Always be nice to anybody who has access to your toothbrush.”


Miles isn’t just a young teen who's prone to making bad choices. In The Equalizer 2, he’s the holder of a soul being pulled in two different directions. McCall wants to lead him in a better, more productive trajectory. But a rough gang gets its talons in him for a time, and McCall rushes in to pull Miles away from that dark side—physically, if necessary. He slams around and knocks out several gang guards before he barges into a meeting where Miles is being encouraged to seek revenge on his brother’s killer. He yanks Miles out of the room, confronts him and challenges him to make better choices.

“You got a chance,” he says. “Use it while you’re still alive.”

This isn’t the way, McCall essentially says—the drugs, the gangs and especially the revenge. You can do better.

It’s a nice scene—so nice, in fact, that a lot of folks might not notice the utter hypocrisy that soon follows. Not an hour passes before McCall begins his own vengeful slaughter of the folks who killed his friend.

He’d call it justice, of course. But when he tells his adversaries that he’s going to kill them all and “the only disappointment for me is I only get to do it once,” well, it’s pretty obvious his own dark motivations go well beyond that.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this jarring paradox between the pure-of-heart and the bloody-of-hand in a Denzel Washington film. But it’s among the most gruesome. The movie’s well-meaning messages are undercut, sometimes literally, at every turn. Despite its nods at goodness, kindness and self-betterment, in the end we're still left with a gratuitous, thought-free bloodbath.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range



Denzel Washington as Robert McCall; Pedro Pascal as Dave York; Ashton Sanders as Miles; Bill Pullman as Brian Plummer; Melissa Leo as Susan Plummer


Antoine Fuqua ( )





Record Label



In Theaters

July 20, 2018

On Video

December 11, 2018

Year Published



Paul Asay

Content Caution

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.