Thanks to his monumental resume and powerful screen presence, Denzel Washington has reached that point in his career where he is the show. We’re happy to be in his presence. Like Hollywood heavyweights John Wayne and Paul Newman, their gravitas and charisma outweighed any vagaries of script, co-stars or settings.

Washington’s latest film, The Equalizer 2, in which he returns as freelance vigilante Robert McCall, is not the most thrilling of thrillers. But the actor is such an engaging performer, such a master of his craft, that it’s tutorial time whenever you wedge into your comfy seat and start chomping the popcorn.

McCall is fearless and focused. He’s intense. He’s encouraging and thoughtful. He’s reflective. He’s well-read. And he wastes a bunch of bad dudes with brutal efficiency.

Washington’s recent artistic offerings have been nothing short of outstanding. His Oscar-nominated performance in Fences, which he also directed, was followed by his Oscar-nominated performance in Roman J. Israel Esq. In his spare time, he tackled Eugene O’Neill on Broadway, playing the lead in The Iceman Cometh, and scoring a Tony nomination for best actor.

At 63, Washington keeps getting better. It’s the cream on top of the cream that was already topping his legacy.

So why make a sequel?

For starters, the first The Equalizer in 2014 was a solid action-thumper. Based loosely on the 1980s TV series, the drama was directed by Antoine Fuqua, the man behind Washington’s gritty Oscar-winning turn in Training Day in 2001. Fuqua returns for No. 2, along with screenwriter Richard Wenk.

This is the first time in his career that Washington has ventured into sequel land. Perhaps he was intrigued by returning to such a solid, stoic character.

The character remains strong. The script, not so much.

In the first film, McCall, the semi-retired CIA specialist, worked at a giant home improvement center (and all those tools came in handy). This time, he moonlights as a Lyft driver. He’s not exactly James Bond, or even Ethan Hunt. McCall drives a Chevy Malibu, listens in on his passengers’ lives and struggles, and kicks into avenger mode when needed.

His side projects are melting pot profiles. He befriends Fatima (Sakina Jaffrey), an Arab-American woman in his Boston apartment complex, mentors an aspiring artist named Miles (Ashton Sanders from Moonlight) and helps an old Holocaust survivor (Orson Bean).

The film starts slowly but picks up when McCall is pressed into service to help his former colleagues (Melissa Leo and Bill Pullman), who are caught up in the aftershocks of a mysterious murder in Belgium. Along the way, McCall reconnects with his former partner Dave (Pedro Pascal) and unravels your typical snake pit of Black Ops secrets.

In between the bursts of violence, the film takes time to plug both Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me and Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. Fuqua gives us blood and guts, and book group topics.

The Equalizer 2 is not going to win any awards for originality. The peripatetic plot is pretty thin, not to mention illogical, and the film desperately needs a stronger villain. We repeatedly bounce back and forth between Boston and Brussels, yet the words keep popping up on screen anyway: “Brussels, Belgium.” Yeah. Thanks. We got that the first five times.

Despite the film’s flaws, with Washington at the helm, there is still a certain degree of fascination as to where he is taking this character.

McCall is slightly OCD. He likes everything in its place. He is obsessed with precision. He starts the timer on his watch before he unleashes a fury of fists, gashing and slashing. It takes a mere 29 seconds, for example, to turn a group of rich, female-abusing joy boys into a heap of blood and broken bones.

We could all use a Lyft driver like him.

Clint O’Connor covers pop culture. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or coconnor@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClintOMovies.