My Top 88 Movies of 2018: 32-29

32. The Equalizer 2

Probably my pick for must unfairly maligned movie of 2018, because, in spite of it getting fairly lukewarm reviews, I honestly really enjoyed this movie. The first Equalizer movie, about a guy who basically starts helping people using his action hero expertise, was a film where I liked a lot of the writing, ideas and acting, but felt that Fuqua’s dour direction kind of dragged it down. Yet between this and the Magnificent Seven a couple of years ago, I really feel like I’m coming around on Fuqua because this was really a lot better.

Honestly, a large part of what I really liked about this movie was also a large part of what I saw a lot of critics criticise it for, the story. The thing about the Equalizer 2 is that it’s not really just one story. There is a main plot involving assassinations and the usual spy thriller shenanigans, but intertwined around it are a bunch of smaller plots involving the main character helping people out in a range of small incidents and small ways. And, while I can see why some people might consider it ‘muddled’, I honestly really liked it. It made the main character seem more mature and worldly in his heroism rather than just one explosive ‘save the country’ thriller plot and seeing him take time out to just talk to an old holocaust survivor or help a kid repaint a mural has just as much meaning as him shooting up an apartment full of bad guys.

Not to say the action is bad either, in spite of it being one of my less liked aspects of the original film. On the contrary, it’s pretty good. There’s some genuinely tense sequences and moments and I really enjoyed the final action scene where the main character almost takes on a slasher-villain esque role hunting and ambushing a squad of goons in an abandoned little town during a freaking hurricane.

Really, the Equalizer 2 feels like a good step forwards from the first Equalizer and improves on nearly everything I liked about it. The main character is likeable and honestly feels like he’s helping out in the world, a lot of his small interactions with the people around him are fun and the action is less dour and ill-fitting with the general tone of the film. I honestly hope they make an Equalizer 3 to see if they can improve it further.

31. Upgrade

So this movie is basically just Venom except actually good and not unintentionally hilarious? Neat.

Seriously though, that’s not really giving this movie credit for how genuinely excellent it was. It had a ton of neat ideas and scifi-ish concepts, some great action and Logan Marshall Green was every bit as good in this role as Tom Hardy was insane in Venom. The scene where his face was visibly freaking out while his body calmly and robotically smashed plates over a guy’s head again and again was some seriously impressive acting.

Honestly, it does feel like it does almost everything Venom does but better. The ideas are better, the story works better as a revenge thriller than a superhero movie, the villain is better, there are actual themes and subtext to behold and the would-be possesser actually feels more morally ambigious and sinister than… well… a turd in the wind.

Ultimately, I don’t really have all that much negative to say about this. Once again, it’s another one of the ones where I just have more movies that I preferred this year, but I can entirely see why so many people love it so much.

30. Mission Impossible Fallout

You know, the last few Mission Impossible films have kind of followed a similar pattern for me. They get great trailers and massive acclaim about how good they are, I go to the cinema and watch them, agree that they’re really damn great and fantastic movies and then… I proceed to mostly forget about them about a month later. And in that regard, Mission Impossible Fallout kinda follows the same pattern. It got massive raves, with people comparing to stuff like Skyfall and calling it one of the greatest action movies ever, I went to see it, thought ‘Yup that really was very good’ and then mostly kind forgot about it not long after.

Still, that does feel a little unfair on this movie because, as mentioned, it is really damn good. Good acting, good acting, some really damn tense sequences and insane stunts, especially at the end with that helicopter stuff, but ultimately it didn’t really make enough of an impact on me to make the toppest tier on this list. Still, like I said, it’s very good and worth watching. I just don’t have much to say about it.

29. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Coen Brothers doing a Western Anthology movie? Those sure are a lot of words that I like. Makes it a touch difficult to review them concisely though, but I’ll give it a shot.

*Takes deep breath.* Okay, in order…

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs: Loved it. Probably my favourite of the lot. Tim Blake Nelson was instantly iconic and lovable in the role and I want a full tv series starring him right now.

Near Algodones: Liked it. Had a lot of great moments, but feels like it ended a bit too soon. Could probably have used a second would-be hanging to pace it out properly.

Meal Ticket: Eh, wasn’t a fan. I could see what it was trying to do, but just didn’t quite work for me. On the positive side, at least it was short.

All Gold Canyon: Liked it a lot: Great atmosphere, great central character, great treasure hunt and a nice subversion of expectations at the end.

The Gal Who Got Rattled: Liked it okay. It felt like the most complete of the stories, but that kind of drama isn’t really my kind of thing in regards to Westerns. Brutally dark ending.

The Mortal Remains: Surprisingly liked it more than I thought I would. It was weirdly compelling and a great character/acting showcase as a bunch of strange and differing characters share a coach. Almost Tarantino esque with an almost mystical edge.

In conclusion, I really did enjoy this anthology. I liked most of the stories and those that I didn’t normally short enough that I didn’t feel like they dragged the movie down.

Seriously though, I want my Tim Blake Nelson Buster Scruggs solo vehicle. Movie or TV I don’t care, I just want more of that character.

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