Denzel Washington is back in action mode when The Equalizer 2 is released next weekend. In his decades long career filled with numerous hits, this is actually the first ever sequel for the star. Antoine Fuqua is back directing and it’s the fourth collaboration between two after 2001’s Training Day (for which Washington won an Oscar), 2014’s The Equalizer, and 2016’s The Magnificent Seven. Costars include Melissa Leo, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, and Bill Pullman.
When it comes to the action genre, few actors are as bankable as Denzel. The first Equalizer, which is based quite loosely a 1980s TV show starring Edward Woodward, made $34.1 million for its start and ended up at $101 million overall domestically. Two years later, The Magnificent Seven took in $34.7 million out of the gate and $93 million total. Nearly all of Washington’s titles in the genre in the past decade or so have achieved mid 20s or more in their premieres.
While The Equalizer 2 may face a challenge scoring a #1 opening over a very different follow-up (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again), a high 20s to possibly low 30s roll out seems quite achievable.
The Equalizer 2 opening weekend prediction: $26.8 million
For my Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again prediction, click here:
Director Guy Ritchie has, in recent years, brought back Sherlock Holmes to pleasing box office results and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to less than pleasing returns. Next weekend comes his take on another well-known character as King Arthur: Legend of the Sword debuts.
Charlie Hunnam is the title character in this adventure epic that costars Jude Law, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, and Eric Bana. The Warner Bros production comes with a budget just north of $100 million.
The last time the legend of King Arthur was on the screen in the summer was 13 years ago and the result was a flop. Antoine Fuqua’s take that starred Clive Owen and Keira Knightley managed just a $15 million opening weekend and $51M eventual domestic gross.
Legend of the Sword should fair better, but by how much? Well, there is a considerable roadblock with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 being in its second weekend. Poor reviews won’t help. I’ll predict this gets to low to mid 20s, which could put it in a battle for second place with Snatched (though Sword is getting the edge).
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword opening weekend prediction: $24.4 million
There are few actors out there who can truly open a movie, but Denzel Washington is one of them. He’s back on screen for the first time in two years with The Magnificent Seven next weekend. A remake of the 1960 classic with Yul Brynner (which itself was a reworking of 1954’s Seven Samurai), this Western re-teams Washington with his Training Day and The Equalizer director Antoine Fuqua. It also features the red-hot Chris Pratt, Training costar Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Peter Sarsgaard, and Haley Bennett.
Early reviews for Seven have been mixed, but this is likely to be a critic proof exercise that delivers an impressive debut. To give you some perspective on Washington’s star power, his last seven pictures have made over $20 million out of the gate (The Taking of Pelham 123, The Book of Eli, Unstoppable, Safe House, Flight, 2 Guns, The Equalizer). Three (Eli, House, Equalizer) have topped $30M and Safe House managed $40M. With its familiar title and the participation of Pratt (coming off summer 2014’s biggest hit Guardians of the Galaxy and summer 2015’s biggest hit Jurassic World), Seven could also join the plus $40M club. In fact, if this reaches over $43 million (the number that Washington’s 2007 pic American Gangster accomplished), it would mark his largest opening.
I believe it will accomplish that feat for a mid to high 40s debut and that would give it the #2 September premiere of all time.
The Magnificent Seven opening weekend prediction: $47.1 million
A ripped Jake Gyllenhaal headlines the boxing drama Southpaw, out Friday and it will attempt to bring in adult moviegoers looking for something out than effects driven sci-fi spectacles and sequels. Antoine Fuqua, director of Training Day and The Equalizer, is behind the camera with Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams, and 50 Cent among the supporting cast. 50’s protege Eminem is featured prominently on the soundtrack and in the trailers and TV spots.
Gyllenhaal has been on a roll lately, particularly in the critical community. Last fall’s Nightcrawler gave the actor some of the best reviews of his career and many (including this blogger) feel he was snubbed for a nomination at Oscar time. Southpaw gives him another juicy role, but early word is somewhat mixed (it stands at 60% on Rotten Tomatoes at press time). Gyllenhaal’s recent track record suggests an opening in the low double to digits to mid teens could be a real possibility here. 2011’s Source Code debuted to $14.8 million while the following year’s End of Watch made $13.1 million out of the gate. The aforementioned Nightcrawler premiered with $10.4 million. I have a difficult time envisioning this matching his best opening of recent years – 2013’s Prisoners which made $20.8 million.
I’ll predict Southpaw is left with a start right in range with End of Watch, which would be fairly decent considering its rumored $30 million budget.
Southpaw opening weekend prediction: $12.9 million
The Equalizer shares primarily its name only with the 1980s show it got its moniker from and much more with Taken and Denzel Washington’s own Man on Fire. Reuniting with his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua, the picture aims to be nothing more than finding clever ways for its star to violently kill bad guys. In that sense, Fuqua’s stylish work and Denzel’s restrained cool (at least in outward personality) often work here. Expectations for anything else than that should be tempered.
Our headliner is Robert McCall, who is unquestionably the Jack Bauer of hardware store employees. He spends his days there and his nights at a diner where he strikes up a friendly relationship with Teri, a teenage hooker with a heart of gold (Chloe Grace Moretz) who’s also an aspiring singer. Why the filmmakers didn’t give her a child with debilitating asthma or other medical ailment to complete the troika of movie cliches is unknown. Speaking of Russian numbers, five is the number of well connected mobsters from that country that McCall offs when he gets involved with Teri’s affairs. And that leads to a whole lotta Denzel bad assery for the pic’s padded two hour plus running time.
If you hadn’t guessed, McCall is no average hardware store employee. His background is only glossed over but there’s been involvement with Black Ops and the CIA. We get a scene with Melissa Leo and Bill Pullman that provides a little insight. Yet The Equalizer doesn’t spend much time on character development. After all, there’s vengeance to be doled out. McCall’s glory days of government service may have provided quite a satisfactory viewing experience. It would certainly be more insightful than the several minutes of screen time where McCall helps an overweight employee become a security guard.
Back to the vengeance. It’s no secret that Denzel does this kind of thing better than most. If not for his participation, this might be a direct to VOD release. The decision to make his character an indestructible killing machine saps a good bit of tension away. The Russian mobsters are no different than ones you’ve seen before. It comes down to this – if you thought Taken was pure action bliss, sign up. This is about on Man on Fire level for me: not one of Denzel’s more memorable entries, but OK.
McCall’s employment locale of Home Mart does provide him with some clever tools to dispense of his prey. One suspects, though, that if he’d worked at Burger King, it’d be no different. He would’ve figured out a method to decapitate baddies with a Whopper wrapper and dislodge tracheas with a chicken fry. He’s just that resourceful.
Denzel Washington reteams with his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua for The Equalizer, loosely based on the 1980s crime TV show starring Edward Woodward. Columbia Pictures is so high on the project that they’ve already announced a sequel, so they’re confident this will rake in the dollars. Chloe Grace Moretz, Bill Pullman, and Melissa Leo costar.
There’s reason for the studio to be optimistic. When Denzel works within the action genre, positive results usually follow. In 2012, Safe House got off to a $40 million start and last summer’s 21 Guns took in $27 million. The Equalizer is unlikely to match the actor’s career best opening of $43 million for 2007’s American Gangster, but it’s not totally out of the question. Reviews have been decent and it currently stands at 70% on Rotten Tomatoes.
I believe this should eclipse the opening of 21 Guns while not reaching the heights of Safe House. A debut in the middle of those picture’s openings seems most likely and it should easily rule the box office next weekend.
The Equalizer opening weekend prediction: $34.8 million