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'The Equalizer' sequel: Do Oscar-winning actors in action movies always mean box office success?

The last few years have seen acclaimed actors like Liam Neeson and Sean Penn pop up in action movies. Does adding a renowned actor to an action film always result in a box office hit?

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    'The Equalizer' stars Denzel Washington.
    Scott Garfield/Columbia Pictures, Sony/AP
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A sequel to the Denzel Washington film “The Equalizer” will reportedly be released.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Sony, the studio behind the first film, is going ahead with a sequel to the action movie. The film is based on the 1980s TV show of the same name and stars Washington as Robert McCall, a former member of US intelligence, as well as actors Chloe Grace Moretz, Marton Csokas, Bill Pullman, and Melissa Leo. The movie featured the re-teaming of director Antoine Fuqua and Washington – Fuqua directed Washington to a Best Actor Oscar for the 2001 movie “Training Day.”

“Equalizer” was released this past September and was a box office hit.

Washington has starred in various action movies throughout his career and so this is just his most recent success in the genre. But the past few years at the movies have seen several actors who have won or been nominated for Academy Awards heading up action films. Actor Liam Neeson, primarily known for critically acclaimed films such as “Schindler’s List” and “Kinsey,” showed how this path could be a financial success, starring in the action film “Taken” in 2009. The movie became a box office success and, while it received poor reviews, Variety critic Derek Elley, for one, noted that “Neeson makes a surprisingly convincing one-man mean machine… For a thesp now in his mid-50s, he handles the niftily edited, bone-crunching action.” Neeson went on to star in “Taken 2,” “Taken 3,” “The Grey,” and “Run All Night,” among other action films. 

Since then, other Academy-Award winning actors like Colin Firth and Sean Penn have also appeared in movies that had them doing more stunts. Firth appeared in this February’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” while Penn recently starred in the film “The Gunman.” 

Is seeking out these acclaimed actors a good investment for an action movie? Such films have had mixed performances at the box office. While “Taken” was a hit, the sequels have steadily declined in domestic gross, according to the website Box Office Mojo, and Neeson’s films “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” which came out this past September, did not fare well financially. "Run” was also not a hit, nor was Penn’s movie “Gunman.” “Kingsman” was a hit, but was an anticipated adaptation of a comic book. 

Results can be mixed. However, when a movie is a hit, like “Equalizer” or the first “Taken,” it often scores big.

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