Denzel Washington could certainly be classed as a prestige actor with his lengthy resume of award-winning films. Washington brings a smooth, ever charming presence to any role he takes on and that was certainly the case back in 2014 when he took the role of Robert McCall in The Equalizer. A by-the-numbers vigilante movie that 100% thrived on the stoic, but commanding performance from Washington. Fast forward nine years, and we find the legendary Denzel Washington completing an unsuspecting trilogy with The Equalizer 3, once again directed by Antoine Fuqua.
After the buffet of one-man-army killing the first two films delivered part three sees Washington’s Robert McCall attempting to escape the violence of his past in a quiet town in Southern Italy. McCall for the first time in years feels at peace. He feels at home, and welcomed by the local townsfolk, which is why he feels compelled to do what he does best when his new friends, and the town he calls home needs protecting from a sadistic mafia capo and his crew.
So, as you can see this third entry follows that similar path of the past action hero wanting to hang up his weapons to live a peaceful life and The Equalizer 3 does hover extremely close to the standard plot beats for this part three formula. From McCall’s desire to retire, to the procedural collection of supporting characters, to the plug-and-play villains and their routine motivation, it’s all stuff we’ve seen many times and it was a bit disappointing to see there wasn’t really anything overly ambitious crafted for Washington’s swan song as Robert McCall.
However, this film does rely on what worked best in the first two and that would be the capable performance from Washington, and the hyper violence when he sets his watch and commences to taking dudes out. Surprisingly, this movie really takes each element to the farthest spectrum which was an odd choice because it makes The Equalizer 3 the most emotionally sentimental, while also being the most gratuitously violent. And it didn’t work for me, primarily because the speed of these two elements clashed and ultimately hindered the flow of the entire film.
When McCall is protecting his friends and taking out mafia thugs (in the most violent ways of the franchise) this movie is moving at full speed, and it feels engaging. Countering that, when McCall is soaking up the town, having quiet moments of reflection, making new friends, and getting (blatant) visual cues that the mafia control is consuming this town, the film moves extremely slowly. Because there isn’t really much filmmaking aspiration, outside of making sure to frame up the beautiful Italian backdrops in as many scenes as possible. This ultimately makes the runtime feel longer than it actually is as the pace speeds up and slows down for pretty much the entire film until the back end of the final act.
The villains are also pretty basic. I won’t deny that Andrea Scarduzio brings an evil intensity to his performance, but he never really feels like any threat to McCall nor do any of his men. This results in McCall facing minimal adversity, making this third and final mission feel any but his toughest. It was more a vibe of feeling sorry for the townsfolk and wondering how much damage the mob would inflict on the town and the people before McCall would finally kick in.
Washington’s performance was good. He’s once again able to land his impeccable glare on many occasions and he does carry the film on his talented shoulders. This makes The Equalizer 3 easily watchable. But at the same time the writing isn’t able to give Washington enough to make this movie feel like a needed closing. Especially with how easy this battle against the mob feels for McCall. I was also a bit disappointed with the thinly written character for Dakota Fanning. I think Fanning was an all-time great child actor and her chemistry with Washington in Man on Fire was perfect. Which made this surface level reunion more than a letdown.
In the end, The Equalizer 3 delivers some delightful grindhouse style hyper violence, when the action is kicked in. Sadly, it’s a bit too infrequent. The direction is good but nothing overly memorable and that would go for the musical scoring as well. Really this just feels like an assembly line studio thriller elevated just a skosh by Washington, and the stunning Italian landscapes. It isn’t as silly as the finale in the last film where characters are sniping in hurricanes, and there is moderate fun to be had, but sadly it’s a forgettable closing to a franchise that should’ve stayed at one.
CAST: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Eugenio Mastrandrea, Gaia Scodellaro, Remo Girone, Andrea Scarduzio, David Denman DIRECTOR: Antoine Fuqua WRITER(S): Richard Wenk, Michael Sloan, Richard Lindheim DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia Pictures RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes RATING: R (For strong bloody violence and some language) YEAR: 2023 LANGUAGE: English GENRE: Action/Crime/Thriller
Anthony J. Digioia II © 2023 SilverScreen Analysis. All Rights Reserved.