- Review by Kaya Savas- 7/26/18
The Equalizer II is the followup to the fun and stylish original from 2014. Antoine Fuqua returns to direct Denzel Washington in another action thriller (although this is more of an action drama) about an expert CIA black ops operative who must find out who has betrayed him and his organization. Harry Gregson-Williams returns to score his third feature with Fuqua after the first Equalizer and The Replacement Killers, which was Fuqua’s very first film. The score follows very much in line with the first one, this time toning back the stylishness in favor of more intimate textures. It’s a wonderful and very "Harry" sounding score that somehow manages to paint a character portrait while also delivering on action.
The score opens identically to the first film, by setting up the audience back with our protagonist Robert McCall. In the first film we found McCall living a life without purpose, sort of lost and without aim. This time we see he has returned to active duty, taking missions to punish the bad guys. On his free time he drives for Lyft while still keeping a lookout for wrongdoers. The score doesn’t have as much of a melancholic feel this time around, but rather just a hint of warmth. Harry always loves to bookend his scores typically with a simple piano theme that sets up our protagonist, and here it’s no different. A lot of the movie is spent showing McCall’s relationship with his neighbors, including a troubled youth named Miles. It becomes this strangely moving character drama for a good chunk of the first act. The subplot of McCall being this guardian for his community works quite well, and Harry is able to do some subtle character work through the score.
The central plot is that McCall finds his team compromised, only to suspect someone from the inside is targeting them. He now needs to discover who is targeting him and put an end to it. Much of the score is spent building tension and suspense as McCall follows the trail. In fact, you won’t find too much action scoring this time around until the final act of the movie. That kick-ass main theme that Harry wrote for McCall in the first film does return at the end of track 1, but you can tell we have turned the dial back from “over the top action” back to “reality” just a bit. The theme does get reprised throughout the film, but the short 43-min album is missing some of those moments.
The final act of the film sort of opens up into a full-fledged western, as McCall tracks down the bad guys and they duke it out in an abandoned coastal town during a hurricane. Harry has fun with the score here, really doing a calculated job at crafting some builds that lead us to the climax. We get the reprisal of one of my favorite soundtrack easter eggs at this point in the score, an electronic percussion loop that has made appearances before. You may recognize it from Harry’s Man On Fire score, John Powell’s The Bourne Identity and Vangelis’ Alexander. It truly belongs as part of Harry’s sound though, and I love it when he brings it back. When all is said and done, the score closes in typical Harry fashion by reprising our character piano theme from the beginning.
The Equalizer II is just pure Harry Gregson-Williams. It’s not doing anything entirely new, but it’s such a great extension of what Harry did in the first film. These Equalizer films are also some of the first opportunities that Harry has been able to tap back into that world that he and Tony Scott created together. Of course these movies are in no way trying to mimic Tony Scott’s work, but just seeing Denzel Washington on camera with a Harry Gregson-Williams score will make you feel a bit nostalgic. This is also not to take away anything from Antoine Fuqua, who did a fantastic job of crafting a very enjoyable and solid action drama. We also see contributions from Harry’s regular collaborator, Stephanie Economou, who is growing into much more than just an “additional composer”. Overall, The Equalizer II provides a very enjoyable action drama that has a touch of warmth deep down to make it a memorable and effective score.