I recently had the pleasure of attending a screening in Los Angeles for The Equalizer 2. The film—directed by Antoine Fuqua—opens Friday, July 20, and it marks the first time both Fuqua and Denzel Washington have ever done a sequel to one of their own films.
Washington reprises his role as ex-CIA agent Robert McCall, a champion for the underdog, the oppressed and the abused. By day he is a Lyft driver—unassuming and quiet, calmly taking passengers to their destinations in the Boston metro area.
He lives a humble life alone in an apartment filled with books and kept just so. His neighbor Miles—played by the brilliant Ashton Sanders (Moonlight)—is a teen being raised by a single mother. Miles is at a crossroads, and McCall takes a special interest in him; their relationship is one of the best things about the film.
And it is that relationship that was reflected in Washington and Sanders themselves when I met up with them last Friday at the Four Seasons.
As I walked into the room, I could hear Washington softly giving counsel to his young co-star in a way an uncle gives counsel to a nephew. Not so stern as to be off-putting but not easy either, his tone was measured and his words were meaningful, and Sanders nodded quietly and took it all in.
Both agreed that their relationship on- and off-screen was the same. Washington said it’s because he seeks “authenticity.” It’s easy to show a meaningful friendship on-screen when you have cultivated it off-screen.
We waited 30 years to see Denzel be the action hero we deserve, and Fuqua—as usual—delivers. Fuqua gave us our first taste of Denzel as a bad-ass bad guy in 2001’s Training Day. Since then, the two have worked three other films together including a western—The Magnificent Seven—and both Equalizer films.
If Liam Neeson can kick the whole movie’s ass in Taken, then for sure your Uncle Denzel can dazzle us with personality and wit while simultaneously being the most cunning and inventive “secret agent” you have ever seen.
It’s well worth the price of admission and popcorn.
My interview with Denzel and Ashton was full of laughs and a lot of fun. This short clip gives you just a taste of our back-and-forth banter. I felt like I was with family.
Worth noting: Ashton did not know Denzel knew Cardi B lyrics until I reminded Denzel that he spit Cardi’s lyrics before for my co-worker, Danielle Young. So then Ashton asked Denzel to say them again. He was amazed. He was so amazed, that he mentioned it in an interview with a different outlet.
Me and Danielle Young (‘DY’ as she is known on staff) started that. You’re welcome.
The Root: We don’t just critique culture, we create it.
Go see The Equalizer 2 when it comes out in theaters on Friday, July 20.
Editor’s note: Story was edited to reflect that the interview took place at a screening.