“The Equalizer 2” (Columbia)

Denzel Washington and Pedro Pascal star in a scene from the movie "The Equalizer 2." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive.(CNS/Sony)

By Catholic News Service

Neither the gifts of Denzel Washington in the title role nor the good his character sometimes achieves compensate for the second round of do-it-yourself justice he delivers to various malefactors in director Antoine Fuqua’s follow-up to his 2014 thriller.

This time out, the protagonist is a Lyft driver who sometimes avenges his wronged passengers. But the principal plotline has him tangling with a band of hitmen who unwittingly assassinate a major CIA asset in Brussels, drawing his old boss at the agency (Melissa Leo), who is also his closest friend, into the investigation. In between maiming and killing the bad guys, he mentors a neighbor lad (Ashton Sanders) hoping to keep him from joining a local gang, and reconnects with his former partner (Pedro Pascal) from his days as an operative.

Solitary, grieving, beset by mild obsessive-compulsive disorder, the widowed loner would make a sympathetic figure if his hobby were not wreaking bloody vengeance. By the time he dispatches one of his opponents with a harpoon, however, the combination of gruesome mayhem and skewed values overwhelms all attempts at justification or excuse in returning screenwriter Richard Wenk’s dialogue.

Excessive gory violence, including torture, vigilantism, at least one mild oath, frequent rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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