Updated: Jan 9, 2019
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
“THE EQUALIZER 2”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2018; R for brutal violence throughout, profanity and some drug content; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: “The Retribution Mode”
ACTOR/PRODUCER Denzel Washington and director Antoine Fuqua have a good thing going.
It started nearly two decades ago with the violent, action melodrama “Training Day” (2001), with Fuqua behind the camera and Washington winning his second Academy Award as L.A. narcotics Detective Sgt. Alonzo Harris. The duo reunited for “The Equalizer” in 2014, an adaptation of the ‘80s CBS TV series starring British actor Edward Woodward as retired U.S. intelligence operative and vigilante Robert McCall.
Screenwriter Richard Wenk penned the high-impact morality tale, with Washington playing McCall as a simple guy in a bare-bones apartment, who takes the bus to his job at a Home Depot-like box store, and uses his special skills to help the helpless in Boston.
The bang-bang B-Movie, in the tradition of Liam Neeson’s “Taken” trilogy, received mixed reviews, but earned a worldwide box office of nearly $200 million.
Two years later, Fuqua, Washington and Wenk re-teamed for the reboot of “The Magnificent Seven” (2016). Washington played another righteous character, Deputy U.S. Marshal Sam Chisholm, who, in turn, was based on Bass Reeves, the first black deputy U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi River.
Wenk had a premonition “The Equalizer” would become a respectable franchise. He wrote its second installment just after the first test screening in early 2014, Fuqua says in “The Retribution Mode” featurette included on the Blu-ray and streaming versions.
“The Equalizer 2” is a well-crafted, stand-alone script giving 64-year-old Washington the opportunity to provide another stellar performance. McCall is now a Lyft driver. He takes off for Turkey to save a little girl, the daughter of a Boston bookstore owner, abducted by her abusive father. Faqua opts not to show how McCall finishes him off. Once back in Bean Town, McCall invests time in Miles (Ashton Sanders, memorable from “Moonlight”), a high school art student, who’s being dragged into the world of drugs and gangbangers.
Melissa Leo returns as former Agency handler Susan Plummer, who heads to Brussels with Dave York (Pedro Pascal) to investigate the deaths of a CIA agent and his wife. It doesn’t go well. McCall reconnects with York, his old military partner, to find out what happened to Plummer.
The final act is predictably brutal, unfolding as a powerful hurricane hits New England, and McCall ends up at the old beach house that he and his late wife Vivian owned.
The enclosed Blu-ray and streaming versions include three short “Making Of” featurettes. “Denzel as McCall: Round Two” showcases Washington’s first sequel in a career of nearly 50 films spanning 40 years. “Denzel is one of the actors that I’ve been looking up to for my entire career,” Sanders says. Washington says he was drawn to the father and son relationship in the story, “helping [the young man] navigate a bit through life.”
McCall still has a lot of oddities, trying to fill a gap in his own life while being a nobleman. “Every single time you get something a little bit different from Denzel because he’s able to read the camera. He’s able to read the scene and read the actors in ways that, as a producer, I could never see,” says producer Jason Blumenthal.
“Seconds Till Death: Action Breakdown” highlights the stunt work choreographed by Jeffrey Dashnaw, who also handled “The Magnificent Seven.” McCall has more hand-to-hand fighting scenes, and uses boxing skills seen in the finale on top of a World War II concrete tower overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. “Through Antoine’s lens: The Cast” reveals Miles was a much younger kid, but Fuqua pushed the character into his late teens.
Additional extras include 25-minutes of deleted and extended scenes, plus “The Retribution Mode” that pops-up throughout the HD versions as Williams and Fuqua identify their favorite action scenes, including the opener on the train. “A fun one to shoot, much like classic sequences in westerns like Sergio Leone’s ‘Once Upon a Time in the West,’” Fuqua says.
Fuqua and British cinematographer Oliver Wood, who filmed three of the “Bourne” films – “Identity,” “Supremacy” and “Ultimatum” – decided to capture the action on 2.8K digital cameras (2.39:1 aspect ratio). It was mastered in 2K. The results for the 2K to 4K upconversion are solid, although not a Gold Prize like Fuqua’s “The Magnificent Seven,” also released on Sony Pictures 4K.
The HDR10 coding for disc and Dolby Vision for streaming provide a wider spectrum of highlights to shadows than the HD version. Colors on all formats are rich and warm, especially interiors, except during the hurricane when the colors turn cooler and are more subdued. Facial toning is natural for the diverse cast, and overall sharpness is slightly more defined than the 4K versions (disc or streaming) with facial markings, and costume textures. Distant objects and landscapes maintain pronounced clarity.
The 4K disc and streaming versions include the more active eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack, with wind effects, gun blasts and musical cues from composer Harry Gregson-Williams, who also handled “The Equalizer.” The subwoofer gets a REAL workout from the deepest passages of the score to the hurricane sound effects. The Blu-ray includes the DTS-HD 7.1 soundtrack, which is also quite powerful.
If the box office numbers for “Equalizer 2” are any indication, nearly matching dollar for dollar with the first film, we should expect Washington, Fuqua, and Wenk to reunite once more.
― Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer