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Review: The Equalizer 3 (2023)

The Equalizer 3 (2023)

Directed by: Antoine Fuqua

Premise: Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is injured while on a mission in Italy and he is taken in by the people of a small town. When gangsters threaten the community, McCall uses his skill set to defend the townspeople.

What Works: The Equalizer 3 is really a character piece in the guise of an action film. After two movies of Robert McCall killing gangsters without a second thought, Equalizer 3 finds the character questioning his way of life. It’s an admirable and interesting approach to the character and the series with the filmmakers acknowledging the brutality of a kind of character that is typically heroized in Hollywood movies. The opening scene sets the tone; the camera drifts through the carnage left in McCall’s wake and it plays like the opening of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. The violence in Equalizer 3 is vicious and goes a bit further with the gore than we usually expect from this kind of action picture. The brutality gives way to tenderness as McCall settles into life in a quiet Italian hamlet. The portrait of life and compassion contrasts with the violence and gives McCall something concrete to fight for. Denzel Washington is quite good in this film in part because the actor is given more to work with. The previous Equalizer films didn’t ask much of him but the third picture calls on Washington’s cool screen presence while also allowing him some vulnerability and humor. 

What Doesn’t: The story of Robert McCall defending a town against gangsters generally works but that’s only half the film. The other half of the story concerns international drug trafficking and political corruption which for some reason is being investigated by the CIA. This aspect of the plot is extraneous and fills out the running time without adding much to McCall’s story. Dakota Fanning is not convincing in her role as a CIA agent. She has no sense of gravitas and the scenes between Fanning and Washington’s characters are off. The Italian town of Equalizer 3 doesn’t come off very authentic. The community plays more like a Hollywood fantasy of a generic European town from a post-World War II film. Equalizer 3 makes its biggest misstep in the ending. It delays the violence; after the brutal opening a lot of Equalizer 3 lacks action or fights. McCall has put down the gun but he’s forced to return to a life of violence to defend the town. The film doesn’t do anything with that idea and the climax comes across as just another killing spree.

Bottom Line: The Equalizer 3 is an admirably different film from its predecessors. The movie doesn’t entirely come together and it is bogged down by an unnecessary subplot but the picture also possesses an interesting tension between brutality and tenderness.

Episode: #964 (September 10, 2023)