Why was Hollywood surprised when “The Equalizer 2” topped the box office last weekend when the Denzel Washington action-packed film sequel battled the jukebox musical sequel “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again?”
Nowadays, we need guardian angels for the oppressed, a righteous hero to help when the odds are against us, and the great title character, AKA Robert McCall, is played by Denzel, was all that and more. That makes for great storytelling.
Director Antoine Fuqua gives audiences an action tale from screenwriter Richard Wenk, framed by a man’s efforts to help humanity in his own way. Fuqua’s awesome cinematic palette is especially evident when he uses an approaching storm as a harbinger for the climatic high-energy battle that shows off McCall’s cleverness.
The action tale has a lot of heart to it thanks to Denzel. The two-time Oscar-winning star’s persona gives McCall a lot of backstory in just a steely-eye glance or a fleeting smile.
He is a retired soldier/secret agent who reads a lot and mourns the loss of his wife. He lives simply and has a “job” as a Lyft driver. It is while he’s in the driver’s seat that he notices the wrongs around him and tries to set things right. He’s a good guy, unless you’re a bad guy, and then all his lethal skills are turned loose. Central to the plot of Equalizer 2 is the murder of McCall’s friend/CIA boss (Melissa Leo), and he will stop at nothing to get justice for her.
A feel-good side plot involves a kid who aspires to be an artist, played by Moonlight’s Ashton Sanders. A gang tries to recruit him but we know with the Equalizer looking out for him that’s not going to happen. McCall saves the kid and tells him to read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ memoir Between the World and Me.
The Columbia Pictures film franchise is a reboot of CBS’ The Equalizer, a great TV drama from the 1980s. It had the superb British actor Edward Woodward playing Robert McCall. The creator of the series is Michael Sloan, a producer/director/writer for film and television, whose show running credits include the great Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Kung Fu: The Legend Continues TV series.
When this reporter sat down with Sloan, he was pleased to announce that in addition to the film The Equalizer 2 coming out this summer, he had a sequel to his The Equalizer: A Novel coming out. And now Killed in Action: An Equalizer Novel is out, published by St. Martin Press. And the impressive suspense writer is already hard at work laying out his third Equalizer novel. “Things are really ramping up in the world of my man Robert McCall,” reported the Hollywood screenwriter and New York author.
Sloan is a producer on the film franchise, but with his novels he is telling very different stories about the retired spy who helps troubled folks. Sloan reinvents the story of the mysterious McCall with vivid descriptions and dangerous adventures for The Equalizer. Whether you have seen the original show or not, the books are gripping. It also reveals little nuggets about McCall that will satisfy fans of the CBS series that ran for four seasons starting in 1985.
How did Sloan come up with the idea for The Equalizer? Michael said, “The idea came jointly from myself and Richard Lindheim when we were having lunch and we were both saying that there ought to be an updated Have Gun, Will Travel type story.” That was a classic Western about a gun for hire, Paladin, who would help those in need.
“Afterwards I started thinking about what I could do with an ex-spy who wants to retire,” Sloan explained. “What does a guy like that do? He either becomes a criminal, or he becomes a mercenary and works for foreign governments or, in the case of The Equalizer, he decides to help ordinary people in trouble who have nowhere else to go. It is relevant that way.”
Sloan was friends with the late Edward Woodward (Breaker Morant) who was perfectly cast in the TV series. Now there’s a new and different “Equalizer” with Denzel Washington in the role, but Sloan noted that they share some of the same qualities that make the character work. “There’s a certain quiet and stillness from both, until you push the wrong buttons, and then they are lethal.”
We all want justice and Sloan’s iconic character and books fills that desire to see the good guys prevail.
Margie Barron is a member of the Television Critics Association and has written for a variety of top publications for more than 35 years and was half of the husband and wife writing team of Margie and Frank Barron.