Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.
Denzel Washington has never done a sequel. That has to be extremely rare for an actor of his caliber, especially one who does his share of popular action movies. But the projects he chooses, even those of a genre prone to franchises, tend not to lend themselves to sequels. Maybe there could be an Unstoppable 2 or a Deja Vu All Over Again or another tale involving one of his many detective characters, but there’s apparently been no interest. Inside Man was supposed to spawn a follow-up, but that was canceled. Now we’re about to find out if Washington’s latest hit, The Equalizer, will give him his first movie series. The Equalizer 2 has actually been in development for a while, but so far the actor hasn’t signed on. The sequel likely won’t go forward without him, so let’s just assume he will be on board in order to imagine what’s next for Robert McCall.
As far as I can tell, by the end of the first movie, McCall seems to have killed everybody who has anything do with the Russian mafia and their prostitution trade. Probably not, but let’s suppose that’s the case. We don’t need a sequel that has anything to do with that storyline. No additional Russian criminals going after McCall as revenge, no loose ends, no more bad guys up the ladder of business with a link to the one teen prostitute who he decided to care about. The Equalizer is based on a TV series where every week there were new people in trouble for the character to help out. The movie installments should also be relatively isolated stories featuring McCall as the only consistent element. The first movie was like an origin story for his new role as a vigilante crusader. The second will be where we get to see him take calls from strangers and continue in his OCD-powered justice.
The Sequelizer, as I’m calling the next movie (sadly I’m apparently not the first person to come up with the name), could go with any plot. This is the sort of property where the studio could just turn an existing crime film screenplay into an Equalizer movie by turning its hero into McCall. But Sony has Richard Wenk, who wrote the first movie, working on a fresh script for the follow-up. It doesn’t have to be totally original, though. Maybe Wenk could adapt or find inspiration from one of the TV series’ many episodes. There’s the kidnap story of “China Rain,” which would give us a movie that’s easily mistaken for a remake of Kurosawa’s High and Low (or simply and more appropriately just another adaptation of Ed McBain’s novel “King’s Ransom”). There’s the wedding hijacking of “Breakpoint,” which I’d love to see redone with both Patricia Clarkson and Tony Shaloub in the same roles they played then.
The two-parter “Blood & Wine,” a fan favorite, would inspire another terrorist storyline, one in which a religious festival is threatened with a poisoning plot. That would also have Washington reluctantly receive a partner of sorts in the form of a former terrorist who is now a monk (played in the episode by Telly Savalas). “Joyride” doesn’t have a terribly interesting plot – two boys steal a hearse that has a coffin filled with cocaine in it – but I like that it reminds us of Washington’s portrayal of notorious drug dealer Frank Lucas in American Gangster, which saw heroin being smuggled through soldiers’ coffins. “Starfire” has a very interesting plot for a movie – a man claims to be an alien and on the run from alien assassins – which might as well divert from the original version by sending McCall into space, since that seems like a logical next step after he suddenly goes international at the end of the first move.
“Bump and Run” features a common situation for superheroes and antiheroes, with a copycat vigilante killing criminals in McCall’s name. That would either be an interesting plot or subplot for the next movie, as something that Washington’s character might have to deal with while building up his new career. He also could have to deal with situations related to his old spy career, and certainly fans of the first movie and also of the TV series will want to know more about McCall’s different background here – he’s a widower rather than divorced, but does he still have an estranged son? Perhaps “Prelude” could provide some proper inspiration, pitting the character against a foreign dictator he helped put into power when he was in the CIA. The plot involves the ruler kidnapping an American journalist, which could provide some contemporary relevance.
The Equalizer may have already gone so global in its scope that a small story isn’t enough for The Equalizer 2: The Sequelizer. They’ll have to give us more of Leo’s character (she’s the equivalent of Control from the show, I guess) and go with a big conspiracy plot involving the CIA and US government and maybe the whole world. The first movie is like a metaphor for old-fashioned interventionist foreign policy, with McCall aiding an ally and initially seeking diplomacy only to have things escalate to higher and higher levels until the head of the snake has been eliminated. Maybe the sequel needs to deal with an organization that’s more Hydra-like than snake, fitting for a world of terrorism cells and not-so-neatly eliminated foes.
Or, the sequel’s producers can just forget that last part of the first movie and keep things smaller. Maybe give us a simple localized kidnapping story that ends with a slow, intense showdown in a Best Buy.