The Equalizer 3
2023, R, 109 min. Directed by Antoine Fuqua. Starring Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, David Denman, Sonia Ben Ammar.
REVIEWED By Alejandra Martinez, Fri., Sept. 8, 2023
Robert McCall (Washington) has done something straightforward for the majority of his life: He’s looked for redemption by taking down the cruel and protecting the weak. Over the course of The Equalizer film franchise – kicked off in 2014 by series director Antoine Fuqua and based on a 1980s CBS series – we’ve seen the ex-CIA operative use his specific, deadly set of skills to right wrongs and dole out his version of justice. The latest (and final) installment has McCall coming to the defense of the downtrodden once more before facing something that he might not have considered before: the redemption and peace he’s long sought out.
After a violent run-in with the Italian Mafia, McCall finds himself stuck in the small Calabrian village of Altomonte. There, as he heals from intense wounds, he learns about the intricacies of daily life and how the townspeople care and look out for each other, and gets a glimpse at what a normal life could look like. When the local branch of the Mafia starts roughing up Altomonte, McCall takes matters into his own hands for one last showdown with evil.
As in previous Equalizer films, the violent sequences of The Equalizer 3 are audacious in their bloodshed: McCall’s gun plows through an eye socket and shoots henchmen through the other end, blood flows and mingles with wine in an Italian cellar during the film’s opening fight, and vans just explode. Seeing Washington as McCall viciously annihilate evil men is one of the pulpier joys of the franchise, and Washington lends a dramatic weight that might not otherwise carry over with a lesser actor in the role. It is an unhinged delight to see him use his gravitas to instill fear and then deliver righteous fury to those who deserve it, even if in this latest installment, the action set-pieces happen a little less.
For the most part, the third movie keeps it by the numbers. With the addition of a new character, Emma Collins (Fanning), we get the reliable ally usually present to help McCall with his vigilante work. (Fanning and Washington haven’t shared the screen since 2004’s Man on Fire; her casting here makes for a sweet, understated reunion.) What is different is the international bent the series takes in this final outing, with McCall living it up in Altomonte and enjoying his life at a slower pace for once. It’s a simpler pleasure watching Washington as McCall adjust to this new pace, breathe a little easier, and build a life outside of vengeance.
Ultimately, The Equalizer 3 marks a fitting and warm end to the franchise. It offers all the audacious violence and familiar set-pieces of the previous films, paired with a wistful goodbye to its central vigilante. It’s not reinventing the genre, but it doesn’t have to. Like its protagonist, this movie knows it has a simple job to do and accomplishes it in the most satisfying way possible.