“Oh, My God. Everything Is Different. This Time It’s Coming After All Of Us…”
Whilst it is never surprising within the contemporary world of cinema to see sequels, prequels and spin-offs when any feature ticks the financial boxes by surpassing box office expectations, it’s fair to say that no one really expected a sequel to 2017’s, Happy Death Day, the highly entertaining, knowingly camp, Blumhouse slasher flick featuring a starring lead performance from Jessica Rothe as Tree who, just for recap purposes, becomes stuck in a Groundhog Day influenced death loop as she is followed and subsequently murdered countless times by a creepy, baby-face masked killer on the campus of her flashy, up-market college. But with the dollar signs stamped on a very well-worn narrative which took almost thirty times its’ production budget across the globe, here we go again with Happy Death Day 2 U, the rather awkwardly titled follow up which sees Rothe once again face battle with continued death as she attempts to save not only herself, but her newly formed and overly geeky acquaintances, from an endless cycle of murderous rampaging. Whilst it comes at no surprise that Death Day part two knowingly treads over highly familiar and already well-worn ground, the cheesy demeanor and likable sensibility the film evokes results in a sequel which fails to be classed as anything resembling memorable, but is undoubtedly a moderately enjoyable B-movie flick nonetheless.
With the original taking large leafs out of the book of Scream and every other slasher flick both before and after, Happy Death Day 2 U chooses to revert to an almost different genre entirely, where amidst the numerous expected murderous set pieces is an underlying narrative which seems to fit more into the science fiction genre rather than horror. With characters outright asking each other whether they have seen Back to Future in one particular scene, the nods to the notion of time travel results in a more interesting sequel than one might have expected, with the brave choice of reverting the assumed genre actually quite rewarding as we move from one outrageous set piece to the next in a sequel which easily could have been called Happy Death Day: Into the Murderverse. With storytelling plot holes saved by the good graces of some flashy editing, the epileptic tone not entirely sitting comfortably in one particular zone, and an overriding sense that maybe one film may have been more than enough, Death Day is of course flaky and overly flawed, but a movie which on the other hand surprisingly never becomes dull or dis-interesting, largely thanks to an assortment of likable characters and a continual hit rate of laugh out loud comedic one-liners and slapstick arrangements, but with a post-credits scene which hints at even more chapters to come, Happy Death Day 2 U is indeed throwaway fun, but that’s all it is.
Overall Score: 6/10
“Emmet, You’ve Gotta Stop Pretending Everything Is Awesome. It Isn’t…”
When it comes to 2014’s The Lego Movie, it is fair to say in retrospect that everything and everyone involved with such a movie was indeed particularly awesome, with my own personal view at the time of its’ initial release verging more on the side of caution when contemplating a feature length movie based upon those tiny multi coloured blocks that really hurt your feet when accidentally stepped upon. With the movie blossoming from the much welcome mix of critical and financial success therefore, including the added impotence of journeys into the realm of equally successful spin-offs, including the ridiculously entertaining, The Lego Batman Movie, which remains my personal of the series so far, here we are again with The Lego Movie 2, the inevitable animated sequel which sees Phil Lord and Christopher Miller drop from directorial duties as they boast both a production role and a screenplay for Trolls and Shrek Forever After director, Mike Mitchell, to work around. With the first film famously featuring a central twist in which we see that the lives of our yellow faced friends are actually being controlled by the hands of Will Ferrell and his playful son, The Lego Movie 2 takes matters a step forward as we see the young sister of the family now being allowed to play with the seemingly endless pool of Lego, resulting in Chris Pratt’s (Avengers: Infinity War) Emmett being heart and centre of a series of utmost destruction which turns his world into a post-apocalyptic, Mad Max inspired war zone.
With Emmett attempting to remain as the same old, happy-go-lucky everyman amidst a wasteland of negativity, he is soon called into action after Elizabeth Banks’ (Power Rangers) Lucy is kidnapped alongside a group of fellow heroes in order to satisfy the ambiguous wishes of Tiffany Haddish’s (Night School) Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi, the shape-shifting ruler of the wonderfully named, Systar System. Sounds bonkers right? And The Lego Movie 2 is just that, a bizarre but highly comical animated adventure which successfully manages to balance the right amount of cinematic appeal to both older and younger audiences, with the colourful, playfulness of the visuals and the smirk-inducing slapstick guaranteed to keep the children in the audience entertained, whilst the array of constantly smart and well-timed comedic gags and slight, off-hand knowing film geek references, including digs at particular film franchises and comic book heroes, are worked effectively into the narrative in order to make the more mature audience member giggle with glee. Whilst the film does struggle to contain the steady hit-rate of comedy throughout its’ slightly misjudged one hundred minute runtime, a weakness which also affects the pacing of the piece, particularly around the halfway mark, The Lego Movie 2 is a worthy successor to a movie which I can admit to being wrong about first time around, albeit one which fails to land the same kind of punches The Lego Batman Movie managed to do. Maybe more Batman next time. You can never have too much Batman.
Overall Score: 7/10
“I Am Who I Am Today Because Of You…”
Whilst it may be slightly harsh walking into a concluding chapter of a franchise after failing to see the previous two entries, my own personal admission as a failure of film criticism due to somehow missing the critically acclaimed opening chapter’s before heading into How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World was aptly fixed with a quick Wikipedia search and a clear confirmation that dragons had indeed been trained effectively and that there really wasn’t that much to catch up on. Directed and written once again by Canadian filmmaker, Dean DeBlois, whose continued service throughout the franchise has indeed placed him in good stead in the land of DreamWorks animation, The Hidden World reunites the merry band of heroic and dragon loving Vikings as they continue their fight in attempting to rescue as many captured flying beasts as humanly possible from the grasps of the insidious and cold hearted dragon hunters. Led by the good natured figure of Hiccup and his dedicated flying follower, Toothless, the loss of his father in the previous installment still fleetingly haunts the young leader, resulting him in remembering the myth of “The Hidden World”, a utopian world for dragon kind which Hiccup attempts to locate in order to not only save his own race, but his ever expanding race of flying friends who continue to overpopulate his land.
For someone entering the movie with only a faint knowledge of the characters and the overarching set up from the past two installments, it is undoubtedly to The Hidden World’s credit that even with only ten minutes into the action, the characterisation of each of the primary players within the narrative is very much easy to establish, and whilst the pacing does take a good while to fully get going into second year, there is a clear commitment from the filmmakers that the movie is very much a solidified end point to the franchise, with a central screenplay which pretty much relies on a whole lot of filler, albeit interesting filler, before getting to the inevitable conclusion. Whilst there are elements of weariness throughout the one hundred minute runtime, the simply gorgeous animation means that when you do become slightly disconnected from the narrative, the design of the movie is so staggeringly wonderful that you take the time instead to inspect every single frame of the picture and oggle at its’ technical brilliance, with shots of soaring horizons, spectacular armies upon both land and sea, and of course, the sight of hundred upon hundreds of dragons taking to the skies really magnificent to behold. With an array of superb voice acting talent, with F. Murray Abraham (The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Grimmel the Grisly the standout performance, and a final act which even made this cold hearted cinephile wipe away a flu induced tear, The Hidden World may not be as amazing as it might have been with the added involvement I may have got from a complete dedication to the series, but it is indeed a movie which has more than enough to sustain an interest for both children and adults as it rounds off in a rather pleasant manner indeed.
Overall Score: 6/10
“My Work Concerns A Particular Type Of Delusion Of Grandeur. I Specialize In Those Individuals Who Believe They Are Superheroes…”
So where do we being with Glass? Let’s begin at the end of the twentieth century in which an up and coming M. Night Shyamalan blew critics and audiences away with The Sixth Sense, a psychological chiller which to this day remains one of the go-to texts for jaw-dropping, I-never-saw-that-coming twists, and a movie which solidified Shyamalan a pathway in Hollywood forevermore to make pretty much whatever he wanted. Following on from The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable continued the interesting pathway the Indian-born filmmaker had already set sail for, introducing both Bruce Willis’ (Die Hard) David Dunn, the football player turned security guard with a miraculous ability to see criminal acts alongside an abnormal level of strength, and Samuel L. Jackson’s (Pulp Fiction) Elijah Price/Mr. Glass, who during the climactic twist of the movie is revealed to be the overarching villain with an unhealthy obsession with comic book heroes. From Unbreakable onwards, Shyamalan tortured audiences with wave after wave of downright insulting big-screen releases, only to fully redeem himself in 2017 with Split, the James McAvoy led B-movie horror of which Shyamalan’s latest, Glass, acts as a direct sequel. Confusing a huge majority of audiences who if unaware of the events of Unbreakable, questioned in tandem during the post-credit scene of Split , “why the hell is Bruce Willis in a diner?” Glass attempts to band together both Split and Unbreakable in an Avengers style team-up, offering up a confusing and sanctimonious muddle of tonal waverings whilst featuring some of the most laugh-out-loud moments of unintentional hilarity I have seen in years.
Let’s face it, on a fundamental level, Glass really doesn’t need to exist in any form whatsoever, with the gap between Unbreakable and Split so vast in terms of time that the decision to stitch those two films together in the first place ultimately lessens both works as a whole, with the individual picture much better as a single story rather than being the victim of utmost contrivance by slamming them altogether as trilogy. With Glass therefore, audiences heading in without previously seeing either Unbreakable or Split will have no idea whatsoever going in, a perfectly reasonable notion considering the franchise dependant world we are currently in, however with gargantuan levels of teeth grinding exposition, Glass doesn’t even attempt at playing it low-key in terms of storytelling ability and instead goes straight to the George Lucas handbook by screaming every single minor detail in the loudest way possible. I mean come on, Glass is the type of film which has incidental characters literally spell out what is happening even when the audience is already a million steps ahead. Now I’m all for silly movies, I mean Skyscraper was stupid but managed to pass the time rather nicely, yet as with anything stamped with Shyamalan’s name on, there seems to be a overriding sense of sanctimony creeping over it, and when the creator believes his work to be of such great importance, the weaknesses become more obvious and the grating, angry emotions begin to fester, particularly in regards to a movie which has such gaping plot holes, I literally just began to laugh at how amateurish the storytelling was out loud in a cinema full of paying customers. With no substance and a reliance on dull, uninteresting levels of wacky supposed “style”, Shyamalan returns to the cinematic black hole his career once fell into, with Glass a movie which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and annoyingly degrades the watchability factor of two of his three best movies. Oh well, at least we still can watch The Sixth Sense again without puking.
Overall Score: 3/10
“People Like Me, We Live In The Past. You Got People That Need You Now. You Got Everything To Lose, This Guy Has Got Nothing To Lose…”
Boosting the career of Ryan Coogler into the international stratosphere, 2016’s Creed remains arguably the most entertaining and thrilling entry into the Rocky franchise since the Oscar winning original, one which brought the leading boxing film series back into the eyes of critical admiration and most crucially, managed to place Everton’s beautifully old fashioned Goodison Park onto the big screen. With Coogler too busy to return to directorial duties, American filmmaker Steven Caple Jr. takes the reigns for a sequel which sees Michael B. Jordan’s (Black Panther) Adonis Creed be crowned as the new heavyweight champion of the world after a successful win against former foe, Danny “Stuntman” Wheeler, a title which is soon challenged from across the East when Creed is called out to partake in a high profile grudge match against the son of Dolph Lundgren’s (The Expendables 3) Ivan Drago, the Soviet Union muscle machine responsible for the death of Creed’s father in Rocky IV. With stakes higher than ever before, Creed II follows a very familiar and welcome filmic sensibility to Coogler’s re-shuffling of the tried and trusted boxing genre back in 2016, with Caple Jr. using the most cinematic of sports as a secondary measure to a story which centres on notions of grief, regret and ultimately redemption within a movie which wonderfully offers once again a much deeper and thematically complex narrative backbone than one would expect from what is essentially a big budget Hollywood sporting blockbuster.
By immediately accepting its’ role and responsibility of the Hollywood sequel with welcome arms from the offset, Creed II utilises a two hour plus runtime to balance expanded characterisation with gorgeous sporting spectacle, and with a central key narrative arc regarding the pressures of living up to individual legacy running parallel within both the tightly wound Creed party and the fiendish Drago camp, Caple Jr.’s movie impressively manages to focus enough on both protagonist and antagonist to allow an empathetic view into the trials and tribulations of their individual lives, ones separated not only by country but by lifestyle too. Offering bolder and bigger orchestrated set pieces, including not one, but two superb fights involving Creed and Drago, the narrative at times does sway into cliche, particularly to audiences already well versed in the ways and means of the Rocky franchise, but with beautiful dialogue and complex character development which carries on from the groundwork already put in by Coogler and co in the film’s predecessor, emotional involvement is achieved with astounding ease, resulting in you peering through your fingers as you witness the young Creed battle through broken ribs and busted eyes against the intimidating and physically mountainous presence of Florian Munteanu’s similarly youthful Drago. With the choreography of the central fights executed to an excellent degree and the long awaited ringside reunion between Stallone and Lundgren as gleefully exciting as the diner scene between Pacino and De Niro in the masterful Heat, Creed II is everything I expected from a follow-up to one of my favourite films of 2016 and even without the presence of Ryan Coogler, the latest Rocky picture is superb sporting cinema.
Overall Score: 8/10
“And Now For The Million Dollar Question: Do People Assume All Your Problems Got Solved Because A Big Strong Man Showed Up..?”
Continuing on from 2012’s highly entertaining animated spectacle, Wreck-It Ralph, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ latest venture sees the return of the titular well-meaning and reluctant arcade game villain, voiced once again by the one and only John C. Reilly (We Need To Talk About Kevin), who continues his blossoming relationship with Sarah Silverman’s (Battle of the Sexes) bubblegum racing princess, Vanellope von Schweetz, in an adventure which follows the atypical cliche of most movie sequels by offering something bigger, bolder and particularly in the case of Ralph Breaks the Internet, a movie which thrives on being rather quite barmy. Directed by the working couple of the returning Rich Moore and Zootropolis screenwriter, Phil Johnston, the second installment in the Ralphverse pretty much continues on from where its’ predecessor ended, with Ralph, Vanellope and the motley crew of arcade game characters carrying on with their wildly colourful existence within the confines of a universe full of retro throwbacks and particular designs which seem to make certain fanbases in the world giggle with utmost joy when seeing their favourite characters appear on the big screen. Wowed by the introduction of the unpronounceable “WiFi” plug which is brought into the arcade by the aged, behind-with-the-times owner, Ralph and Vanellope soon journey into the the new area after the latter’s game, Sugar Rush, is unplugged due to an accident indirectly caused by Ralph himself.
Whilst the central storyline to Ralph Breaks the Internet undoubtedly fails to be as straightforward, streamlined and easy to follow as its’ predecessor, moving from one plot point to another and then to another again in the spirit of George Lucas at his insufferable worst, the most surprising aspect of the movie is the almost uncanny similarity to the truly awful, The Emoji Movie, with varying familiar themes regarding on-the-nose product placement and the darker, seedier side of the world wide web all bringing to mind how terribly wrong everything involved with that particularly movie ultimately became. Fortunately for Ralph and co, Disney’s attempt proves much more successful, blending the wide range of internet-based notions to a much more effective degree which even manages to suppress the annoying factor of the obvious advertisement, and with crisp, well designed and admirable animation to soak up, Ralph volume two is rife with astronomical levels of detail including numerous, off-centre comedic asides which in a similar vein to The Lego Batman Movie, will undoubtedly require subsequent viewings in order to locate every single easter egg on offer. With effective guest voice actors including Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) as a Death Race inspired, super-cool racing driver and Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures) as a social media obsessed entrepreneur, a trippy final act filled with animation spectacle at its’ finest and a particular scene involving Disney Princesses which is the finest animated comedic set piece since everything involving Jack-Jack in The Incredibles 2, Ralph Breaks the Internet is a more than adequate sequel which ticks all the boxes for all-round family friendly animated adventure.
Overall Score: 7/10
“Are You Not Lisbeth Salander, The Righter Of Wrongs? The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? The Girl Who Hurts Men Who Hurt Women..?“
With the rather lacklustre attempt to revitalise Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” trilogy to an American audience after the success of the Noomi Rapace starring Swedish set of movies back in 2009, the David Fincher adaptation of The Girl in the Dragon Tattoo starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig in 2011 was planned as a kickstarter for a fresh release of English speaking crime movies focusing on the intertwining lives of both journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, and vigilante hacker, Lisbeth Salander. With the subsequent Fincher movies placed on indefinite hold in the years that followed, The Girl in the Spider’s Web comes to cinema with a brand new director, a new batch of actors and a script based on a novel by Swedish author, David Lagercrantz, who has subsequently continued the works of Larsson who sadly passed away before the original movies came into fruition. Directed by Fede Álvarez, famous for the rather entertaining one-two of the The Evil Dead remake and Don’t Breathe, and featuring the wonderfully agile Claire Foy (First Man) in the lead role, the latest Salander-led adventure unfortunately fails to live up to the promise of the Uruguayan’s previous two features, lacking the panache and darkened style which seeped through Fincher’s adaptation whilst failing to offer anything new to a series which seems to have already sailed past its’ sell by date.
If remembered for anything, Larsson’s writing contained subject matter which teetered on the edge of bad taste, combining sexualised violence with a brutal sense of hardened realism evidenced rather memorably in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in which Salander’s rapist is punished by rather extravagant if justified means, and even with Álvarez at the helm, a filmmaker not exactly new to the world of cinematic nastiness, The Girl in the Spider’s Web feels surprisingly tame as it manages to come across as a near 12A rather version of the franchise with no signature grit or substance, emphasises by a bland, overly sterile tone seeping through with no effective levels of tension or threat whatsoever. With a screenplay which centres on long lost sisters, nuclear disaster and a central hacking superhero who seems to have breathed in the James Bond effect of being completely invincible, there have been episodes of Doctor Who which have been more believable, and even with Foy in the lead role at least attempting to bring some sort gravitas to the role with the familiar funky hairstyle and stern, wet flanneled look slapped across her face, she is ultimately let down by sloppy and lazy writing which leaves her well and truly behind her predecessors in terms of overall effectiveness in her portrayal of Salander. With a brilliant supporting cast including the likes of Sylvia Hoeks and Vicky Krieps being rather wasted considering their equally memorable roles in Blade Runner 2049 and Phantom Thread respectively, their brief appearances only resulted in wishing the film would end as soon as possible in order to go and revisit those particular movies which in terms of cinematic levels of excellence, are in a different universe completely.
Overall Score: 4/10
“He Killed My Friends, And Now He’s Back To Finish What He Started, With Me. The One Person Who’s Ready To Stop Him…”
Acting as a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s influential 1978 horror classic and thus disregarding and retconning the many, many franchise films which followed, Halloween circa 2018 sees the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode for a reunion with the iconic figure of the knife wielding Michael Myers forty years after the infamous Haddonfield Murders in which a handful of teenagers were brutally murdered by the hand of the ghostly masked serial stalker on Halloween night. Brought back to the big screen by Stronger director David Gordon Green, Halloween acts as both a respectful and intelligent ode to the Carpenter classic whilst offering enough fresh and interesting levels of substance which puts it above and beyond the many failed attempts to reignite particular horror franchises in an age when studios constantly feel the need to regurgitate old ideas for the sake of a quick and meaningless buck. With a barnstorming central performance from Curtis and a brutal, terrifying central antagonist in the form of Myers, Green’s attempt at resurrecting one of horror’s most iconic franchises is a resounding success, mixing classic genre undertones with ferocious slasher violence within a movie which indeed treads over very well worn ground but does so with an element of style and outrageous levels of joyous fun.
Kicking off by introducing to the audience a Myers securely kept within the confines of a particularly creepy asylum for the insane, the opening quarter of the movie takes its’ time in developing characters both old and new, particularly that of the now expanded Strode family, where an isolated and aged Laurie channels her best Sarah Connor impression by having used the majority of her life to prepare for the return of her own personal “boogeyman” at the cost of rejecting the chance to be both a mother and grandmother to both Judy Greer (Ant-Man) and Andi Matichak’s (Orange Is The New Black) Karen and Allyson. Whilst the majority of the audience are astutely aware that particular characters are undoubtedly headed for the chopping block when the inevitability of death is sprung upon the town of Haddonfield once again, it is to the film’s credit that once Myers begins his murderous ascent, the brutal and bone crushing violence is genuinely horrifying and knowingly contrasting to Carpenter’s original in which on-screen gore is sparse and heavily implied, and with genuinely shocking characters deaths and an array of tense set pieces, Green fully embraces and understands the essence of what made Carpenter’s film so powerful and simply updates it for a contemporary audience with alarming success. With enough clever odes to the franchise to keep the hordes of horror fans dancing with glee, including very familiar yet inverted camera shots and knowing dialogue which brings to light particular plot threads throughout the Halloween series, Green’s movie is made all the better by the enigmatic presence of the wispy haired Curtis, whose outspoken perception of the film acting as metaphor for the #MeToo generation also adding an extra layer of substance to a movie which managed to hit all the right notes, particularly from the point of view of slasher fans who will lap Green’s movie up like Michael Myers in a knife shop.
Overall Score: 8/10
“The Country Is In A State Of Complete Chaos And The Universe Sends Me You…”
Winning the award for least anticipated sequel of the year, Johnny English Strikes Again sees the return of Rowan Atkinson’s bumbling British secret agent following on from his first appearance on screen in 2003 and its’ sequel, Johnny English Reborn in 2011. Directed by Northern Irish big-screen debutante, David Kerr, the third installment of the spy spoof franchise is ninety minutes of pretty much what you would expect from a Johnny English movie, offering PG friendly slapstick comedy within a selection of sketches which are marginally worked around the thinnest of narratives which sees English hooked back into the payroll of MI7 after every single serving secret agent’s identity across the globe is revealed by an unknown, tech savvy hacker. Whilst most critics will undeniably head into Strikes Again fully aware of the certainty that the next Citizen Kane won’t exactly be waiting for them inside, the real litmus test for Kerr’s movie resides in the way in which it manages to work to its’ strengths, and whilst Strikes Again fails to offer anything fresh or interesting to the catalogue of spy-spoof comedies, Atkinson’s undeniable smirk-inducing talent results in a movie preferably best watched when either drunk or with highly energetic friends. Or even both.
With a high proportion of the funniest set pieces readily available within the movie’s trailer, ranging from a diabolical attempt at utilising cutting edge virtual reality to the complete and utter destruction of a classy, world renowned yacht, Strikes Again does manage to capatalise on Atkinson’s hilarious slapstick persona to a somewhat effective degree, and with the film’s best gag undeniably an elongated riff on a similar comedic routine seen in Jon S. Baird’s 2013 black comedy, Filth, in which English feels the effect of adrenaline enhancing drugs, it’s hard to prevent smiles being cracked even when you know the film as whole is absolute tosh. With the enigmatic presence of Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks) chewing the scenery as the opinionated, wine-dependant British Prime Minister, the more the movie remembers it has to at least follow some sort of plot is when it ultimately crumbles to pieces, with Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) and Jake Lacy (Rampage) managing to supply performances both instantly forgettable and agonisingly dull, and whilst it’s quite sanctimonious to hate on a film not exactly aiming for anyone other than a child-friendly audience, Strikes Again manages to be neither good nor bad, just ridiculous nonsense.
Overall Score: 5/10
“There Are Two Kinds Of Pain In This World. The Pain That Hurts, The Pain That Alters…”
With The Equalizer 2 being the first sequel in which Denzel Washington has starred in throughout his luxurious cinematic career so far, it goes to show the trust which has been established between actor and director Antoine Fuqua, a filmmaker who reunites with Washington for the fourth time after the likes of the excellent, Oscar winning Training Day and of course 2014’s The Equalizer, a film based on the 1980’s American television series of the same name in which Washington’s Robert McCall beats down on the evil of the world in an attempt to save the helpless and aid the innocent in the most violent ways possible. Jump forward four years later and McCall returns once again in a sequel which attempts to blend an It’s A Wonderful Life style story arc with gritty, hard-edge violence, culminating in a bit-part character study riddled with rather cliched twists and a strange lifeless tone which pushes the movie forward at almost walking pace, and even with flashes of brilliance at times and Washington at his mercurial best, The Equalizer 2 is still a forgettable sequel which fails to expand upon its’ predecessor in a way which warrants its’ reason for existence.
With the opening thirty minutes re-treading old ground by once again establishing McCall’s “hero for hire” type to an audience who potentially may have completely missed the first movie, Richard Wenk’s screenplay seems more interested in showing how McCall fits into the everyday lives of random residents of Massachusetts instead of actually delivering the promise of the film’s action-packed trailer, and whilst the next thirty minutes attempt to elbow in a murder mystery subplot featuring the return of Melissa Leo’s (The Fighter) Susan Plummer, Fuqua’s movie never really gets going until the final act when the film remembers it is meant to be shelved within the genre of action rather than dour, dramatic nonsense. With Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones) providing the most obvious character deception seen in cinema this year, the real fireworks within the movie undoubtedly resides between Washington and Ashton Sanders (Moonlight), with McCall’s patriarchal relationship to Sanders’ Miles providing the best scenes of the movie, particularly one set piece in which McCall rescues Miles from a criminal-infested high-rise and emotionally spells out the tight balance between life and death. Whilst there is something within the DNA of the character of McCall which makes him undeniably watchable and interesting, The Equalizer 2 unfortunately does not carry the same sense of intrigue, resulting in Fuqua’s latest being a rather stale sequel which starves both action audiences and Washington fans alike for any real sense of engagement or emotional involvement.