Where to Watch: In theaters
Release Date: September 1st, 2023
Runtime: 1h 41m
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington
Synopsis: Since giving up his life as a government assassin, Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) has struggled to reconcile the horrific things he’s done in the past and finds a strange solace in serving justice on behalf of the oppressed. Finding himself surprisingly at home in Southern Italy, he discovers his new friends are under the control of local crime bosses. As events turn deadly, McCall knows what he has to do: become his friends’ protector by taking on the mafia.
“Sensational” and “brutal” sum up the third installment of The Equalizer franchise, and Denzel Washington’s performance in Equalizer 3 is nothing short of spectacular, which is no surprise to fans of the 48-year vet . When you have one of the best actors and directors collaborate on a project like this, the end product is bound to be a good time with some kick-ass action scenes and, trust me, there are some tough scenes this go round.
At first, the film presents a seemingly random yet action-packed turn of events as our lead character, Robert McCall, finds himself in the care of a stranger who turns out to be a Carabiniere (a member of the Italian paramilitary police) and a local doctor. Yet, as the story unfolds, director Antoine Fuqua and writer Richard Wenk masterfully bring these events together, resulting in a compelling narrative and thus giving McCall a renewed sense of purpose, sending him on a captivating journey into a new chapter of his life.
While the antagonist in this installment may not stand out as much as those in previous films, the context is crucial. We’re dealing with a small but dangerous mafia attempting to take over a picturesque Italian coastal village. This setting allows the movie to avoid the temptation of concluding matters prematurely by unleashing a horde of bad guys on the village. Instead, it keeps the tension simmering, gradually building to a satisfying climax. I would like to argue that if you show the action scenes to someone unfamiliar with the franchise, they would think that McCall is the villain in this film.
One notable aspect of the film is how each level of villains, from the lowly recruits to the high-ranking Camorra members, seem to fear those above them. Director Fuqua skillfully portrays this dynamic, emphasizing the menacing aura of criminal leadership. Leader Vincent Quaranta scares even his brother and second-in-command, Marco Quaranta, with his antics.
The film’s deliberate pacing serves a purpose: to give us a glimpse into McCall’s transition into his new life. It effectively shows how much time he needs to adjust and resist his urge to become an assassin again, a lifestyle he’s not certain he wants to continue. By the movie’s end, we see a character who not only feels comfortable in his new life but is also happily dancing with the locals, suggesting a potential romance with Aminah, played by Gaia Scodellaro. Washington and Scodellaro have great on-screen chemistry that is naturally further enhanced by the breathtaking backdrop of an old Italian village. The picturesque old buildings, bustling markets, and stunning ocean views are enough to inspire anyone to book a trip to Italy. Heck, I’m looking at flights and all-inclusive packages as we speak!
Fuqua employs creative cinematography to capture McCall as an almost mythical figure, especially during intense confrontations. One particularly striking moment features McCall bathed in light from a streetlamp, looming over his injured adversary, with the camera positioned from the villain’s perspective.
In another scene, McCall is climbing the steps of a building, and as he sits on a step we notice a picture of St. Mary in the background. There’s a dark stairwell to one side of him and a light stairwell opposite. I interpret this symbolism as his pending decision to choose a pathway of either darkness or good, which is what he struggles with during the course of this final installment.
The film’s action sequences are nothing short of brutal and gory, satisfying those with a taste for intense, bone-crunching violence. From the very beginning, the audience is thrust into McCall’s world of calculated chaos, reminiscent of a Michael Myers-esque killing spree.
In Equalizer 3, Denzel Washington once again reminds us why he’s one of the most acclaimed actors of our time. Although I still think that the first film is the best of the three-part series, Washington’s portrayal of McCall is a tour de force and, combined with Fuqua’s deft direction and compelling narrative, this installment offers a thrilling and riveting cinematic experience. Equalizer 3 is a testament to Washington’s enduring appeal and the franchise’s ability to consistently deliver heart-pounding action with substance. Check it out in theaters for an action-packed good time.