Denzel Washington and filmmaker Antoine Fuqua - who directed Washington to a Best Actor Oscar in the 2001 police crime drama/thriller Training Day - reunited in 2014 for The Equalizer, a hard-boiled action/thriller and loose spinoff from the 1980s TV series of the same name. A sequel was put into development even before the film opened in theaters (following positive test screening reactions), but Sony has only now confirmed that The Equalizer 2 is moving forward.
Equalizer stars Washington as Robert McCall, an older and seemingly harmless man who has left his violent past (back when he was an extremely-dangerous government operative) behind him. However, when a young woman (Chloë Grace Moretz) he befriended is brutalized by her Russian mobster employers, McCall is inspired to use his skills against the criminals and "equalize" the situation.
Sony confirmed Equalizer 2 is happening when it debuted a logo for the sequel during the studio's panel at the ongoing CinemaCon in Las Vegas (hat tip Collider). Equalizer screenwriter Richard Wenk was reported to have been locked down to work on the script for the followup before the movie was released, but Fuqua's first installment has since proven to be commercially successful enough to warrant a sequel - having grossed some $192 million worldwide against a $55 million budget.
It's currently unclear if Fuqua is going to be returning for Equalizer 2, but Sony would presumably want to bring him back rather than mess with the original movie's formula for success; not to mention, when we interviewed Fuqua last year he expressed his hope that Equalizer would do well enough to justify a franchise. Fuqua's interest in a sequel appears to be there already, in other words.
Wenk's slow-burn Equalizer script, combined with Fuqua's stylistic flourishes and effective staging of the story's frequently grisly action, resulted in an "urban western" B-movie thriller that worked, more often than not. Equalizer proved to be an effective introduction to Washington's version of the McCall character by using similar world-building techniques (like, skipping over the traditional origin story) to those from John Wick last year - allowing the films to establish their respective universe, while leaving enough doors open to justify further exploration in sequels.
Washington has yet to do work on a sequel and was keen to emphasize that he takes each of his films one at a time, when we asked him about The Equalizer's franchise potential. Nonetheless, as indicated above, the script by Wenk certainly paved a path for McCall's story to continue on in the future - and seeing as Sony has now officially announced Equalizer 2, that's presumably because the studio has either already closed a deal to bring Washington back or expects to do so in the foreseeable future.
Fuqua and Washington are currently preparing for their next collaboration: a remake of the classic western The Magnificent Seven, which begins filming soon (with a cast that includes Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D'Onofrio) to make an early 2017 release date. If both Fuqua and Washington commit to working on Equalizer 2 shortly after post-production wraps on Magnificent Seven, then the sequel could be ready for theatrical release by the first half of 2017 too.
Moretz presumably won't return for Equalizer 2, as the original movie seemed to wrap up the part of her character's story that intersects with McCall's continuing journey. However, supporting players in The Equalizer portrayed by the likes of Melissa Leo and Bill Pullman - as characters from McCall's past - could figure into the plot for a second installment, as we explore the effects of McCall pursuing his new "part-time job" as a vigilante-type (who evens the odds for those being victimized).
For now, though, there are a lot of factors that appear to be up in the air when it comes to the Equalizer sequel - other than it's going to happen, that is.
We'll bring you more information on The Equalizer 2 when we have it.