The Equalizer 2

Year: 2018
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Melissa Leo, Ashton Sanders, Bill Pullman

Written by Tom Sheffield

Full disclosure before I start this review, I only watched The Equalizer for the first time a few hours before heading to the cinema for an early screening of this sequel. I really have no excuse as to why it took me so long, I’d only ever heard good things about it and now I can see why! It’s safe to say that I was well and truly ready for the sequel once it had finished and I had high hopes for it seeing as Denzel agreed to return for his first ever sequel.

Following his killing spree in the first film, Robert McCall (Washington) is now a Lyft driver in Massachusetts and lives in a small complex. McCall spends his days listening and talking to passengers, and by night he helps out the less fortunate as a righteous vigilante. After his closest friend is murdered, McCall makes it his personal mission to find those who killed her and deliver his own justice. The incoming hurricane isn’t the only storm brewing…

Much like the first film, the plot is very slow paced. Clocking in at just over two hours long, the first half of the film is spent focusing on McCall’s day job and the people he meets. We are also introduced to McCall’s neighbour, Miles (Sanders), who is a young and talented artist who has taken a wrong turn in life following the death of his brother. McCall takes Miles under his wing to help steer him on to the right path, and it’s this unexpected friendship that is a strong focus in the first half of the film. Once McCall learns of the death of his best friend the pedal hits the metal and McCall’s ferocious revenge begins.

Denzel yet again manages to completely embody the character of McCall. We didn’t learn all that much about his character in the first film, but this sequel gives us a little more insight into his mysterious past and also shows us a more fatherly-figure side to him. We know he’s a very protective person, but his relationship with Miles allows us to see a deeper side to him. Ashton Sanders delivers a solid offering as troubled teenager Miles. We learn about his background during his conversations with McCall, and we witness the struggles and dangers Miles puts himself in as he continues to make the wrong decisions in life. Pedro Pascal is a fantastic addition to this sequel, but the less said about his character in this review the better the film will be for you!

Oliver Wood, who’s previous cinematography work includes the Bourne series, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, and Safe House, has delivered some career-best work here. Fuqua and Wood have paid close attention to each shot, but there’s one shot in particular that revolves around McCall’s car that I had to restrain myself from punching the air because it was so quick and so smooth that when it’s available on home release I will be going straight to that scene to watch again and again. If you’ve seen it, or will be seeing it, you’ll know instantly which scene I am referring to.

Antoine Fuqua has managed to re-capture a lot of what I loved about the first film without making it feel like a copy and paste job. With the slow-motion ‘situation assessing’ shots and the brutal justice McCall serves, all it felt like the film was missing was Batman’s cape and cowl. Denzel putting on the batsuit really wouldn’t have felt out of place in this film – and I mean this is a sincere compliment. Whilst it takes a while for the action to kick off, the wait feels worth it as once it starts it rarely stops to let you breathe.

With some incredible action set pieces that rival the bloody killing spree in the first film, The Equalizer 2 proves itself a worthy sequel (even if a plot point or two are incredibly clichĂ© and predictable). Denzel is on form once again, delivering both really touching moments and brutal fight scenes that will make you think twice about ever messing with him. Unlike most films these days, The Equalizer 2 doesn’t end with some sequel baiting tease and if this is the last time we see McCall it will be a fitting farewell, but something tells me that more of McCall’s past could come back to haunt him and we could be blessed with an Equalizer trilogy.

 

Tom’s Rating: 

4.5

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Denzel Washington Starts Tying Up Loose Ends In The First ‘Equalizer 2’ Trailer

“Denzel Washington returns to one of his signature roles in the first sequel of his career. Robert McCall serves an unflinching justice for the exploited and oppressed – but how far will he go when that is someone he loves?”

Directed by: Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Bill Pullman,  Melissa Leo

Release Date: July 20th, 2018

Battle of the Sexes

Year: 2017
Directed By: Valerie Faris, Jonathan Dayton
Cast: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming

Written by Fiona Underhill

Co-directed by the ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ helmers Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, ‘Battle of the Sexes’ has come out of the festival circuit and probably has hopes of Oscar potential. This film tells the true story of Billie-Jean King (played by Emma Stone here), the Number 1 women’s tennis player of the early 1970s and a washed-up, has-been male tennis player, Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) pitted together in a ridiculous rivalry that questioned whether a female athlete could rival a male one. It is set during the burgeoning ‘women’s lib’ movement, but of course still resonates today, not least in the world of tennis itself where the likes of Andy Murray has to constantly remind the media of Serena Williams’ achievements. I confess I was unaware of this event until the film came about, but it had a huge impact at the time. It was one of the biggest televised sporting events ever, with 90 million viewers and made a significant difference to the feelings of women who still struggled to get credit cards in their own names.

As told in this film, the match came about because King dared to challenge the huge imbalance between prize-money for male and female tennis players. When she was met with derision from the Association of Tennis Professionals, headed by Jack Kramer (slightly shocking to see Bill Pullman in an elder statesman role), she decided to ‘go it alone’, finding a group of fellow women tennis players to form the Women’s Tennis Association. Bobby Riggs, a successful player in the 30s and 40s,  had fallen on hard times due to a gambling problem and marital problems (his wife Priscilla is played by Elisabeth Shue). So he comes up with the wheeze to challenge a female player to a match, first he persuades Margaret Court (who had recently had a baby), then he finally manages to ‘bag’ Bille-Jean King.

The performances in ‘Battle of the Sexes’ are astonishing across the board. I truly believe Steve Carell is one of the best actors we have working today and he should have received more attention for ‘The Big Short’ last year. The supporting cast is also exemplary; of course Andrea Risborough is the stand-out, as she is in anything. Risborough plays Marilyn, a hairdresser who goes on tour with the women and who starts an affair with Billie-Jean. Sarah Silverman is also fantastic as King’s agent and Austin Stowell sports the finest head of hair I’ve seen since Robert Redford’s heyday (whilst portraying King’s husband, Larry).

Frustratingly, although written by Simon Beaufoy, whose work I have enjoyed, the script didn’t really stack up for me. It’s also disappointing after ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ (in which you felt like you knew and understood each member of that family) and ‘Ruby Sparks’ (a really great rom-com directed by Faris) that ‘Battle of the Sexes’ doesn’t quite work. For me, the main failing comes from the character of Riggs and his motivation. He is portrayed as a buffoon, doing anything gimmicky (playing tennis with sheep and in a variety of costumes) for publicity and money. This ‘challenge’ is just another extension of that, you certainly don’t get the impression that he was truly a vehement chauvinist – out to put women back in their place. He seems to be acting that role and playing it up for the cameras, but this disconnect isn’t made explicit or explored in enough depth. It’s also unclear whether King really believed or understood why he was doing it. Although reluctant, King allows herself to become part of this circus, during the peak of her career and I’m not sure I fully understood why. It didn’t allow her to be open about her sexuality, for example.

Alan Cumming’s character, Ted Tinling, who designs and makes the women’s tennis dresses also didn’t quite work for me. He is portrayed as stereotypically camp but is also shown trying to share a tender (actually cheesy and sentimental) moment with King in ‘solidarity’. Although all of the performances were excellent (I don’t want to get into a debate about whether Stone deserves the Oscar for this more than ‘La La Land’), ‘Battle of the Sexes’ did fall short, for me. I’m glad I got to see groups of middle-aged women clapping and whooping in the showing I saw and I was affected by an article about how important this real-life event was to a woman who was a young girl with an abusive father at the time. However, I feel that they deserved a better film than this – one that really got to grips with the motivations of the characters. And one that perhaps put the event more firmly in the context of the women’s lib movement of the time. Ultimately; great performances, shame about the script.

Full disclosure: I am adding 2 points to my rating for Andrea Risborough alone.

Fiona’s Rating: 7.0/10

tennis

Fox Searchlight Pictures Serves Up First Trailer For ‘Battle Of The Sexes’

Synopsis: “The electrifying 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) was billed as ‘The Battle of the Sexes’ and became the most watched televised sports event of all time.  The match caught the zeitgeist and sparked a global conversation on gender equality, spurring on the feminist movement. 

Trapped in the media glare, King and Riggs were on opposites sides of a binary argument, but off-court each was fighting more personal and complex battles. With a supportive husband urging her to fight the Establishment for equal pay, the fiercely private King was also struggling to come to terms with her own sexuality, while Riggs gambled his legacy and reputation in a bid to relive the glories of his past.

Together, Billie and Bobby served up a cultural spectacle that resonated far beyond the tennis courts and animated the discussions between men and women in bedrooms and boardrooms around the world.”

I’ll admit, I had no idea about the real ‘Battle of the Sexes’, and to be honest I’d never heard of Bobby Riggs or Billie Jean King before today.  Having said that, this trailer has definitely piqued my interest… So much so I’ve spent the last half hour reading about the pair and this historic tennis match. 

Emma Stone and Steve Carell most definitely look the part in this first trailer! Carell’s latest, more dramatic, roles have been a nice change from his previous comedic and often ridiculously dumbed down characters. Not that I don’t enjoy those roles, it’s just this recent change in the characters he plays has served him well so far, and he’s brilliant in films such as ‘The Big Short’ and ‘Fox Catcher’.  

Husband and wife directing team, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, are at the helm for this historic tennis match, which also stars Bill Pullman, Sarah Silverman, and Alan Cumming.

‘Battle of the Sexes’ swings into UK cinemas November 24th

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