Sunday Morning: Equalizer 2

Way back, a million years ago, The Equalizer and John Wick came out at more or less the same time. I saw them within days of each other and so I couldn’t help but make comparisons between the two.

John Wick was a heavily stylized music video. Keanu Reeves kills 77 people in John Wick. Of these 77 people, we know the names of… 7 of them? Maybe? (I think it’s closer to 4 or 5.) More than that, about half of the 70 unnamed people who got shot each had about a second of screen time before they ran up to John Wick to get shot in the head. It was a gorgeous movie and terribly silly for how violent it was.

The Equalizer, by comparison, took its time with both Denzel Washington and the criminals he dealt with. Denzel talks to the bad guy boss surrounded by his henchmen. We see the bad guys have conversations with each other about the conversation Denzel is having with them. We watch everybody talk beforehand and we see that Denzel Washington gives them an opportunity to do the right thing. Sometimes, the people he talks to do the right thing.

Other times, they fail to do the right thing.

After the fight is over (a fight that takes mere seconds) he then sits down and gives a short lecture to the guy in charge as he is bleeding out on the floor. “You should have done the right thing.” The bad guy boss bleeds out. Denzel Washington leaves.

This dynamic is repeated in the sequels. In John Wick 2, John Wick kills 128 people. How many of these people have names? I think that saying “8 of them are named characters” would be an overstatement. And, much like in the first movie, more than half of the people who are killed have about a second of screen time. They run up, they get shot, they fall down.

The emotional distance is *HUGE* in the John Wicks. We know absolutely *NOTHING* about the vast majority of the bodies on the ground. They were hired muscle? I guess? But we don’t know if they were punch-clock bad guys whose boss’s boss didn’t even know their names or if they would share meals and conversation with the people they’re protecting or what. They were on screen just long enough to get shot in the head.

Well, in the Equalizer 2 (finally out on Blu-Ray), they also take the first movie and increase it for the sequel, but what also gets turned up is the intimacy. The conversations take place. When the bad guy gets got, he knows *EXACTLY* why it happened. More importantly, *YOU* know exactly why it happened.

In the John Wicks, when you see 5 people get shot in a row, the main communication on the part of the movie seems to be something like “whoa, cool, this is awesome”.

In the Equalizers, when you see 5 people get… well, it’s never as simple as being shot, is it? When you see these five people get… let’s say “dispatched”… the main communication seems to be “this could have been avoided, had they done the right thing.”

Personally, I prefer the Equalizers.

So… what are you reading and/or watching?

(Featured image is “Scales of Justice” by DonkeyHotey. Used under a creative commons license.)


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Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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9 thoughts on “Sunday Morning: Equalizer 2

  1. One thing I liked about both Equalizer movies is that they don’t pretend McCall is some young guy who can go 10 rounds with someone. Nope, he plans, and uses ever single advantage his devious mind can dream up, and he doesn’t let the fight go any longer than it must.

    It’s like watching MacGyver, if MacGyver was older and pretty much done with trying to save everybody.

    That’s not to say Wick isn’t all sorts of fun as well (and Keanu is a hella hard working actor), but yeah, two different approaches, one is much more fantasy than the other.

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      • Man on Fire & John Wick are both great because they have differently built and executed, but both awesome “I’m On Board For Whatever The Main Character Does After This” moments.

        With MoF, I think some people would say is too long, but the first basic hour is built to make you like and enjoy the Dakota Fanning character as much as Creasy does, so when she gets kidnapped, you’re like, “OK, tear Mexico City down. I don’t care, do whatever you need too. Let’s go.”

        With John Wick, it’s obviously the Dog Thing, which is quicker because you don’t need a bunch of build up to get people upset if something happens to a Dog, but there’s just enough and the whole connection to his dead wife, again, makes you go, “Yeah, this all seems like a proportionate response to what happened.”

        Equalizer almost gets there with the Chloe Moretz thing, but it to me, it just falls short. Still a fun action flick, but not quite at the Riproading Rampage of Revenge of those other two.

        My actual hot take is that Taken isn’t actually all that great, aside from the speech and one other moment, and that Walk Among the Tombstones is the best late-era Liam Neelson action flick because it’s actually a “broken down detective” movie, not a “Liam Neeson old man revenge” movie.

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        • I saw Man on Fire the same week I saw the weird and bad Punisher movie. (The one where we had a 5 minute Punishermobile montage then Johnny Cash sang the Punisher a song in a diner and then Punisher left the diner and Johnny Cash crashed into the Punishermobile, totaling it.)

          Anyway, after seeing that Punisher movie, I saw Man on Fire and was blown away. Holy crap! That was the Punisher movie I wanted to see when I saw The Punisher!

          John Wick has you okay with John Wick shooting people in the head because John Wick is John Wick. (I wonder how many actors were shot in different scenes to save a little money. I wonder if any of them were also in John Wick 2… “I got killed seven times!”, one of them could brag at the bar.) The bad guys existed to demonstrate how competent John Wick was. Justice had nothing to do with it. It was Fate to be killed by him. (Well, sometimes he did the thing where he gave the baddies opportunities to walk away.) You didn’t *WANT* his opponents to die, necessarily. You didn’t even know who they were until you saw them get shot.

          In The Equalizer, they did a good job of getting you to want the bad things to happen to the bad people. Not necessarily to have Denzel Washington to do them… it’s just that, without him, maybe nobody would give what these guys had coming.

          I kinda disagree about Taken. (The sequels are another story.) It’s a Mel Gibson pre-revenge thriller that has been turned down to a 3 to let it appeal to the family crowd. (I agree about that one other moment. That was awesome.)

          I was too troubled by the bad guys in Walk Among the Tombstones. I liked that the bad guys were stupid and venial… but that meant that their crimes were more visceral.

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  2. I enjoyed John Wick for the world which seemed dark but kind of fun with it’s whole Hotel Continental and its associated underworld economy and power structure. That said I couldn’t immerse into John Wick dues to the heavy 1000 useless ninjas theme of it along with the confounding factor of the ninjas having guns which, let’s face it, cuts against the core point of what a gun is.

    A gun is a noob weapon. The first guns were brutally inferior to bows but you could teach hordes of peasants to lug and fire guns en mass whereas a capable archer virtually needed to be grown from infancy. I grant, of course, that skill matters for guns as it does for everything but it matters a hell of a lot less. Pre-gun weapons were pretty skill intense; an incompetent with a bow or sword could barely kill anyone and was generally not even willing to try. Get a pistol into the hands of an incompetent, on the other hand, and they can hurtle a minimum of a single utterly lethal bit of speeding metal at the main character that is fully capable of splattering their internal organs all over the wall.
    Being a killer of a thousand useless ninjas in pre-gun eras is hard but at least plausible. Being a killer of a thousand useless ninjas with guns requires extra sensory prescience that gives you awareness of every single ninja, their location and their firing vectors. Miss even on of them and they’re gonna kill your ass.

    And that’s why I have trouble with John Wick even though it’s an interesting world.

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