Melon Farmers Original Version

The Equalizer 2

Detailed BBFC cuts


Cutting Edge Season 5 Episode 56: The Equalizer 2...

Brutal violence equalized down to a BBFC 15 rating

Link Here 31st July 2019

The Equalizer 2

Following the success of Antoine Fuqua's cinematic reimagining of The Equalizer in 2014, Sony Pictures announced in April 2015 that a sequel would be forthcoming, and The Equalizer 2 was later released on July 20th, 2018 in the United States. The film saw the return of director Fuqua and actor Denzel Washington, who reprised his role as Robert McCall.

The final theatrical cut of The Equalizer 2 was passed with an R rating in the United States for:

"Brutal violence throughout, language, and some drug content."

BBFC advice on cuts for a 15 rating

For the film's British cinema release, the distributors wanted to attain a '15' classification. As a result, a rough cut of the film was viewed by the British Board of Film Classification in the United Kingdom for advice on how the filmmakers might attain their desired rating. These "advice screenings" are a common occurrence in Britain, with film companies seeking guidance on how to achieve a desired rating in order to maximize box office potential. Cutting Edge previously looked at the first Equalizer film, where the advice screening process had been undertaken in order to ensure the filmmakers received a '15' rating for that film too. This rating was achieved after Sony Pictures made 15 seconds of cuts, and this cut version was later released on DVD and Blu-ray. The original uncut version was released in the UK with an '18' rating on 4K Blu-ray on July 30th, 2018.

With regards to The Equalizer 2, the BBFC state on their website that:

"The film was originally seen for advice at which stage the company was informed it was likely to be classified 18 uncut but that their preferred 15 classification could be achieved by making reductions to scenes of strong violence and gore. When the film was submitted for formal classification these scenes had been acceptably reduced."

Four scenes in The Equalizer 2 were censored for its UK theatrical release.

Cut Scenes: Arm break

The first occurs around 20 minutes into the film and concerns the vengeful violence that McCall inflicts upon a group of men who have taken advantage of a young woman named Amy. After McCall throws one man to the ground, he snaps his arm at the elbow before crunching his wrist.

Despite the wealth of punchy violence that's prevalent throughout this scene, the BBFC only objected to McCall crunching the man's wrist after his arm had been broken for the distributors to achieve a '15' rating.

Cut Scenes: Double stabbing

The UK cinema version of The Equalizer 2 played without any further censorial changes until approximately 100 minutes into the film, where another instance of violence perpetrated by McCall was cited as needing to be toned down by the BBFC. In the abandoned town, McCall kills an enemy with two knives, stabbing and slashing the man about 12 times. At one point, McCall drives the two blades into the man's abdomen, before pulling them upwards into his torso.

In the UK, the BBFC indicated to the filmmakers that the sight of McCall's pulling of the knives upwards was beyond the confines of the '15' rating and that the act should be removed. The rest of the assault was left intact.

Cut Scenes: Trapped

Less than five minutes later, the largest (and most obvious) BBFC cut occurred after the villain Resnik is eviscerated by one of McCall's explosive traps. The uncut version contains a lingering panning shot up Resnik's body, which shows a gaping wound in his stomach.

For the filmmakers to achieve a '15' rating, the BBFC stated that the sight of this stomach wound should be removed, which resulted in approximately eight seconds of footage being cut. Only the tail end of the panning shot was retained in the UK cinema version, with the shot cutting in just before the wound disappears out of the bottom of the frame

Cut Scenes: Watchtower fight

The last cut made for the UK theatrical release of The Equalizer 2 occurred during the final fight atop a watchtower between McCall and York. After McCall gouges York's eye and repeatedly stabs and slashes him with a knife, McCall drives the knife into the nape of York's neck, cutting into his spinal cord as blood splashes onto the ground. McCall then kicks York off the tower.

For a '15' rating in the UK, the BBFC objected to the sight of McCall stabbing the knife into York's neck, along with the subsequent cutting action and sight of bloodletting.

Following the removal of around 12 seconds of violence, The Equalizer 2 was passed '15' in Britain for a cinema release on July 31st, 2018 for:

"Strong violence, threat, language, drug misuse."

A Cutting Edge Alternative Cut

In our episode covering the first Equalizer film, we put forward several arguments regarding the BBFC changes made to that film to avoid an '18' rating and we feel that most of those same arguments are worth repeating here. As before, Cutting Edge is left pondering how necessary the BBFC cuts made to The Equalizer 2 were and how much of a difference they made to the film as a whole. The film contains a lot of brutal and crunchy violence (even in its censored form) and some of it is perpetrated by the hero -- sometimes with a sadistic edge. Yet the BBFC Guidelines state that "strong sadistic violence is unlikely to be permitted" at '15'. Where do the BBFC draw the line and how do they determine what constitutes sadistic violence?

For instance, McCall slams an enemy's head into a glass table after he has already been floored, before sadistically breaking the fingers of another man and leaving him wailing in pain. Later, McCall fires a harpoon bolt through a man's face, with the bloody end of the bolt seen to be dripping blood in close-up. Elsewhere, McCall repeatedly stabs enemies with bloody results, sometimes accompanied by pumping music on the soundtrack. And yet, the four small cuts to violence in order to attain a '15' rating were all made to acts that were relatively brief or undetailed. The bending of an enemy's wrist with a crack is decreed too much for a '15', as is the sight of a couple of knives being driven into another enemy's body, although it's perfectly acceptable for McCall to repeatedly slash up the same enemy before this, as well as inflict multiple slashes on York before he kills him.

It is fair to say that the two strongest sequences are the sight of Resnik's eviscerated stomach and the final severing of York's spine in the finale, but the former scene is far from bloody and rather undetailed, whilst the stabbing of York is largely impressionistic with only a brief sight of blood splashing onto the floor and no visible sight of any wounds. As with the first film, we would argue that the cuts made to The Equalizer 2 make little difference to the film overall, and it would have made more sense to classify the uncut version of the film with a '15' rating, instead of suggesting a few trims that do little to dilute the cumulative impact of the film's violence. Or, as a worst-case scenario, the BBFC could have made heavier cuts that actually made a legitimate difference to the affected scenes.

In the video below, Cutting Edge has created its own examples of how we would have cut the film for a '15', doing more to reduce the sadistic edge of the problematic scenes than the BBFC cuts. We encourage you to check out these demonstrational clips and we welcome your thoughts on the arguments we have put forward in his article. Cutting Edge obviously disagrees with the cutting of a film but if it must be done, we believe that any changes should make a significant difference in a censored version. (Your comments are welcome on the YouTube video page for the episode or the Facebook page for the Cutting Edge Series ).

Cut and uncut versions on UK home video


Censored UK Blu-ray (left), uncut 4K Blu-ray (right)

As for the official UK cinema version of The Equalizer 2, it was submitted for a DVD and Blu-ray classification in Britain in the winter of 2018, with the BBFC stating that the film was passed '15' on December 14th . However, the uncut US theatrical version was also passed on that same day with an '18' rating for:

"Strong bloody violence."

The uncut version of The Equalizer 2 was released solely on 4K Blu-ray in the UK. This niche format meant that most UK fans would have to make do with owning the cut version on DVD or Blu-ray. However, UK fans without the ability to play 4K Blu-ray discs may wish to import the US or Australian Blu-rays, both of which are fully uncut and Region Free. Either disc comes highly recommended for British fans seeking the complete version of The Equalizer 2.


Cutting Edge Video, Season Five, Episode 56 The Equalizer 2

All articles are original works compiled by Gavin Salkeld, with occasional help from a small team of researchers. Particular thanks are due to the BBFC for their diligent and helpful explanations of their interventions.

Gavin has written about film censorship for Melon Farmers since the year 2000. See more on the Cutting Edge Facebook Page.
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