Life for an Equalizer is tough.
Once you've seen and done it all as the Denzel Washington-played super spy, traversing the globe to use your wits and fists to dropkick Russian mobsters into submission, what do you do for a next act?
Well, you drive a Lyft to make a few bucks. You take a toothbrush and some paint thinner to some pesky graffiti outside the wall of your dingy apartment. You go shopping for books, and hand some to the neighbor kid who is teetering between a promising life as an artist and running with a street gang.
You, um, make a kick-booty cup of tea.
"The Equalizer 2" has no subtitle, but if it did, it may as well be "Diminishing Returns." This is an action movie in which the action star strives to be, well, inactive. Sure, when pressed into battle he still catches that old glare in his eye, sizing up the environment in super slow-mo, extreme close-up detail before taking down a room of thugs in less than a minute.
But all things being, well, equal, the Equalizer would rather just chill into the simple life.
Director Antoine Fuqua, who guided Washington to Oscar glory in "Training Day" (2002), as well as the solid, if unspectacular original "The Equalizer" (2014), seems a bit bored this time out. The uninspired effort is action flick by number, providing all the snappy one-liners, breakneck action scenes and requisite emotional beats without adding any of the extra oomph that might have made the film memorable.
Still, when a movie's got a furious Denzel, there's always a chance. Through sheer force of smoldering will, the actor could make a reading of the tax code exhilarating. His intensity extends to his physical abilities, which show no signs of slowing as he creeps into his 60s, dispatching foes in a Jason Bourne-like flurry.
What passes for a plot has him vie against a former loyal partner who betrays him, for no other reason than because that's what former loyal partners do in movies such as this.
Exacting his justice requires car-chasing shootouts that would make a Las Vegas deputy blush, standoffs in dark alleys and, of course, 25-minute climactic gunfights in the rain against a goon squad with Stormtrooper-level aim.
"The Equalizer 2" may not be the equal of the more spirited and precise original, but it's got enough going for it to secure its slot as a go-to movie for dads and uncles to watch on a Netflix-and-beer day a few months from now.
Should you find yourself watching this in the theater, though, it says something about the movie's quality level that you may lean longingly at the wall, hoping to catch an echo of "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" playing next door.
RATING: 2 stars out of 4.