Tag Archives: denzel washington

THE EQUALIZER 2 (2018) – My rating: 7.5/10

“The Equalizer 2” (aka, The Equalizer II or EQ2) is a vigilante thriller, directed by Antoine Fuqua. It is a sequel to the 2014 film, The Equalizer, that was based on the TV series of the same name.  This is the fourth collaboration between Washington and Fuqua, following the “The Equalizer”, “Training Day” (2001), and “The Magnificent Seven” (2016).  I loved “The Equalizer” and was anxious to see “The Equalizer 2”.  I didn’t think the sequel wouldn’t live up to the original.  Perhaps Denzel should have lived by his principal not to make sequels of his own films.  Read on to see what changed.

A retired marine and intelligence operative, Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) now lives in a diverse apartment complex in urban Massachusetts.  While working as a Lyft driver he also helps the less fortunate, aided by his friend Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo).  Anonymously McCall helps a local bookstore owner’s daughter, who had been kidnapped by her father (Adam Karst), he also mercilessly beats a group of men for drugging and raping a woman, as well as helps Sam Rubinstein (Orson Bean), an elderly Holocaust survivor, who is looking for a painting of his sister who was separated from him when they were transported to different camps.  In addition, after discovering his apartment courtyard has been vandalized, McCall accepts an offer to repaint the walls from Miles Whittaker (Ashton Sanders), a young resident with an artistic but troubled background. One day McCall’s friend, Susan, is called to investigate an apparent murder-suicide of an agent and his wife in Brussels along with DIA operative Dave York (Pedro Pascal), who is McCall’s former teammate. After the investigation, they return to their hotel where Susan encounters assailants. McCall sets out on a path of revenge after one of his friends is killed. With his hands full of all the ensuing investigations he finds himself enmeshed in, Robert McCall forges on to resolve the mystery.

All in all, the plots were good but a bit to many.  Denzel’s acting was superb, as usual.   The following parts were brilliantly acted by Bill Pullman as Brian Plummer, Jonathan Scarfe as Resnik, Kazy Tauginas as Ari and Garrett Golden as Kovac.  The pacing is what I really had a problem with.  McCall’s actions were the same as in the original.  He would make note of the time on his watch and complete his punishment to the guilty within the short period of time he allotted.  Watching McCall in action was outstanding and quite satisfying considering the reason his prey was his prey.  Reading papers, making decisions and pondering his thoughts was down right boring at times.  In other words, Fuqua needed to pick up the pace.  If there is to be another sequel, I hope the words of the many critics won’t go unnoticed.  I still enjoyed the “The Equalizer 2” and think you won’t be disappointed.


ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ (2017) – My rating: 7.5/10

Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a legal drama written and directed by Dan Gilroy. The movie focuses on a lawyer who is forced to start working for a large law firm after his small-firm partner suffers a heart attack.  While the movie never reveals the true condition of the surviving lawyer, I suspect Asperger.  I’m not sure why this was not pursued because I think it’s extremely important to the film. Roman J. Israel, ESQ is a pretty dark  yet insightful story for which I have mixed feelings about.

A lawyer, Roman J. Israel (Denzel Washington) has always fought from behind the scenes at his small Los Angeles law firm, never taking credit for his work. Additionally, he has spent years on developing a brief that will change the justice system while making a personal decision to not to pursue a family or a normal life in order to fight the good fight. Roman is short on interpersonal skills, but is endowed with legal genius and is the behind-the-scenes brains and partner in a two-partner law firm with his former professor, William Henry Jackson, a civil rights legend who was the public face of their firm. George Pierce (Colin Farrell), a fast-talking and ambitious lawyer who runs his own multimillion dollar practice, has been brought in to help clear the current caseload, and per instructions from Jackson’s family, Roman needs to assist in dissolving the office and getting all their clients transferred over to Pierce.  Now Roman is suddenly forced to take on a lead role. He discovers secrets about his law firm that his partner hid from him. He also finds out that the firm is broke, which forces him to look for a new job after learning some unsettling things his law firm has done against helping the poor and dispossessed, for which he would never approve. While on a job interview, Roman meets Maya (Carmen Ejogo), a community organizer and equal rights crusader. The interview does not go well, but Maya finds herself reaching to maintain her connection with Roman.

He ends up taking a job with George Pierce (Colin Farrell), the person his partner put in charge of the firm, if anything should happen to him. Roman is a poor fit at the big firm but Pierce assigns him several clients due to his brilliance.

One client, Derrell Ellerbee (DeRon Horton), has been arrested for a holdup-murder; he says he did not kill the clerk but is willing to testify against the shooter, Carter Johnson (Amari Cheatom). Ellerbee tells Roman he also knows where to find Johnson. This information should get Ellerbee some form of leniency but Roman negotiates badly with the state’s District Attorney and no bargain is struck.  Ellerbee is murdered before his case goes to trial.

Roman’s mishandling of Ellerbee’s case, causes potential problems for the firm and for himself. Roman contacts relatives of the murdered store clerk and accepts their offer of a $100,000 reward for Johnson’s location. The money buys Roman a new look and a new, cynical attitude. He is better accepted at work, but Roman struggles with his hypocrisy.  Johnson, now arrested, calls the law firm;  At this point the problems get bigger and more complex.  In order to find out the outcome of Roman J. Israel, ESQ, you’ll have to see the film for yourself.  The suspense will keep you guessing right down to the end.  While I wouldn’t recommend this film for everyone, I will say it was well acted and a pretty good story.  Despite the film receiving mixed reviews from critics, Denzel Washington was praised for his performance and was nominated for Best Actor – Drama at the 75th Golden Globe Awards and for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role at the 24th Screen Actors Guild Awards — Check it out!

[Roman J. Israel, ESQ. is Oscar nominated Denzel Washington for Best Actor]

FENCES (2016) – My rating: 9/10

fencesI heard Fences was somewhat theatrical, which it was and after seeing it, I also found it was a little slow. At times, I felt I watching a play but a very well written and a very well acted play. Never having read August Wilson’s play, I didn’t know where this story was going. Then all of a sudden, it took a turn for the better. I sat up in my seat and any boredom and any bad thoughts I harbored about having come to see Fences disappeared. Suddenly, excitement and intrigue entered the story. My emotions were coming into play and I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next. Was I dreaming or was this really happening? Was this boring, straight, hardly off the beaten path, Black man now full of sass and controversy with an exciting story to tell? Is he really standing here before his wife saying what I’m hearing?

Fences takes place in the 1950s and tells the story of Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) who lives in Pittsburgh with his wife Rose Maxson (Viola Davis) and their son Cory Maxson (Jovan Adepo).  Fences is a story about a Black family with many stories of how they got to the point they have gotten to with the convictions, hopes and dreams for their future and their child’s future. Troy and Rose along with Troy’s brother Gabe Maxson (Mykelti Williamson) and their child try to make it in a world that makes it extremely hard for them to just exist and live normally. Troy works for the Department of Sanitation as a garbage collector along side his best friend, Jim Bono (Stephen McKinley Henderson). However, Troy wants to be a driver like the White man and wonders why that position is excluded from the Black man. Thinking he is about to get fired for speaking up, Troy gets quite the surprise instead. From here we meet Troy’s estranged son from a previous relationship, Lyons Maxson (Russell Hornsby), who infrequently visits his father to borrow money, which upsets Troy, since he’s not on board with Lyons choice of occupation as a musician.  In addition, Troy’s son Cory wants to play football, which Troy is also not on board with since he feels Blacks can’t make a decent living in the NFL either.  Having played professionally in the Negro Leagues himself, he believes he was passed over because he is Black and not because he was too old for advancement.

Fences goes on to tell the stories that define Troy and the decision making that go into shaping his brand of raring his son and dealing with his handicap brother as well as his profound feelings of love and marriage that make him who he is today.  It also mentions the fence Rose asked him to build around their house, many times.  Having survived a near-fatal bout of pneumonia in his youth, Troy claims to have done so by defeating the Grim Reaper in a fistfight, upon which the Reaper vowed to return for a rematch. The titular fence is conceptualized by Troy as a symbolic way to keep the Grim Reaper out, but is also representative of the emotional barriers he built between himself and his sons as well as Rose’s effort’s to protect the people she holds dear.

Of course I have left out the most exciting parts of this story and urge you to go see an extraordinary classic you won’t soon forget.  Denzel and Viola really were brilliant and it’s a story that’s worth knowing about.  It goes places you would not have imagined.  Check it out!

{BTW, Viola Davis won the 2017 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture,  for Fences!}


[FENCES is nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Adapted Screenplay]


THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (2016) – My rating: 8/10

magnificentsevenThe Magnificent Seven reminded me a lot of True Grit. Who better than Denzel Washington as Sam Chisolm to pull off the lead character as a sharp shooter and warrant officer with the monumental task of taking out an evil, greedy villain like corrupt industrialist, Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard).  The Magnificent Seven takes place in 1879 and focuses on a gold mining town called Rose Creek.  The town, filled with regular GOD fearing folk, is overpowered by Bogue and many of the locals are slaughtered, including Matthew Cullen (Matt Bomer) who tried to stand up to Bogue.  After the slaughter, Matthew’s wife, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) along with a friend, Teddy Q (Luke Grimes) leave town in search of someone who can help stop Bogue and return Rose Creek back to the people.

After listening to Emma’s story and learning of the culprit’s name, Chisolm sets out to recruit a group of gunslingers who can help him, starting with gambler Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt). They are later joined by sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), knife-wielding assassin Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), skilled tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) and notorious Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo).

After the Magnificent Seven arrive in Rose Creek, a gunfight with Bogue’s enforcer McCann (Cam Gigandet) ensues.  The Seven manage to win and sends a warning and challenges Bogue to return and fight or simply leave the town. As usual, there’s much more to this story but I’m minimizing spoilers, so I can say no more.  This was a fairly good western or what my mom use to call a “shoot em up”.  This remake of the 1960 version of The Magnificent Seven brings nothing new or earth shattering to the plate, but is very entertaining and well acted.

THE EQUALIZER (2014) – My rating: 9/10

TheEqualizerWhen a movie has me thinking about it more than 2 days, it’s good. The Equalizer is one of Denzel’s best. For once, the trailer didn’t give away the meat of the film. You could guess at what Denzel’s character, Robert McCall is from the coming attractions, but you’d be wrong. I am not going to give away anything because the element of surprise is what makes this movie so great. I really want to tell all, but I’ll restrain and hold my tongue. I can only say that Mr. McCall was well acted by Denzel Washington and the rest of the cast were equally as good, pun intended. There were so many great scenes in The Equalizer, I literally couldn’t stop reliving them in my mind. Need I say, this film is worth the price of a movie ticket and 2 hours and 11 minutes of your time . If you like good acting, action, drama and an excellent plot, you’ll be thoroughly entertained.