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Soundtrack review: The equalizer 2 (Harry Gregson-Williams – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The equalizer 2 (Harry Gregson-Williams – 2018)



“The Equalizer 2” (sometimes promoted as The Equalizer II/EQ2) is an upcoming American thriller film directed by Antoine Fuqua. It is a sequel to the 2014 film The Equalizer, based on the TV series of the same name. The film stars Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Melissa Leo, and Bill Pullman. Robert McCall learns that one of his longtime friends, Susan Plummer, has been murdered. McCall decides to return to his old ways and seek out, find and punish the perpetrators. Harry Gregson-Williams returned to write the score.

As much as I enjoyed the movie and Denzel’s take on the path Liam Neeson has been on for a decade now, the score, like most HGW scores for Denzel movies, has been a let down. He is back for another try with this one. Once again right from the first notes, from the first moody seconds of this score, the opening of “McCall’s return” I recognize Harry Gregson-William’s sound, a sound I’ve been familiar with for over 15 years now. He has his own way of doing thriller music, quiet, a mix of melodic and electronic that reached its peak for me with “Spy game” and, ironically, another Denzel movie “Man on fire” but has failed to reach the same levels of emotional impact since. That’s why his recent output is so puzzling, because I like his sound, I never get tired of his sound, but more often than not there’s something missing. I look at Mark Isham for example who is similar in a way because he has his almost unique style of writing scores that he rarely strays from but who has written some very solid scores in the past couple of years, one of them for a movie that serves, in a way, as competition for “The equalizer”, Ben Affleck’s “The accountant”.

But I digress, and even the fact that I am able to do this while listening to the opening cue of this score shows that it hasn’t been able to grip me yet. Even the way the cello pops up on “Boston by day” is signature HGW but the music just fails to take off. I know that Denzel’s character is the lonely, quiet type in these movies but there is bloody action and I can’t hear it. I know that he mourns the death of a friend but he does something about it. The composer is content with just providing a mysterious and suspenseful underscore to what’s happening on screen and this makes it lack as a standalone listening experience as it’s too quiet, too harmless. There are shadows of what I’m looking for hidden in some cues, like the reflective middle section of “Stories of sorrow” or the one cue I really loved “Five pounds of pressure” but I needed more. Once again, as in the first score of the franchise, the one cue I liked was a reinterpretation of a piece from “Man on fire”.

“The equalizer 2” is a mournful, brooding score that fails to emotionally engage me for more than a few minutes. It’s dark, it’s tense, but other than this tone I will not remember much about the score.

Cue rating: 69 / 100

Five Pounds of Pressure

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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