This review was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the film being covered here wouldn’t exist.There’s a good argument to be made that Denzel Washington is the greatest actor working in the industry today. He’s a two-time Oscar winner, renowned by almost all, can perform in any genre, and you would be hard-pressed to find someone on this planet who doesn’t like at least one of his performances. While his dramatic work in films such as Fences, Training Day, Malcolm X, and Glory are incredible feats of acting all by themselves, he’s also one of the most badass action stars in the business. There are films like Man on Fire to Unstoppable as well as the highly underrated The Magnificent Seven reboot, but the first two The Equalizer films are the ones that stand out the most amidst his pure action-driven roles.

This might sound sacrilegious to some, but Antoine Fuqua and Washington are one of the most effective director-actor duos out there. Washington has always brought out the best in Fuqua, and of course, Fuqua directed the thespian to his second Oscar win. For the longest time Washington was on the very small list of movie stars who had never done a sequel. Then along came The Equalizer in 2014, an action-thriller loosely based on the 80s television series of the same name. The film became a smash hit at the box office and, while critics were a bit more lukewarm on the film, audiences ate up every minute of it. In 2018, the The Equalizer 2 debuted in theaters and was another hit. Five years later, Fuqua and Washington are teaming up once again, for the third and apparently final chapter in the hit franchise: The Equalizer 3.

RELATED: ‘The Equalizer 3’ Director Antoine Fuqua on Why Audiences Respond to Denzel Washington as Robert McCall

‘The Equalizer 3’ Showcases Denzel Washington’s Best Attributes as an Action Star

Image via Sony Pictures

Set some time after the events of the second film, The Equalizer 3 opens with a Silician mobster entering his base of operations to find that almost all of his men have been brutally murdered. It’s not long until he comes face-to-face with Robert McCall (Washington), in an encounter that leaves our protagonist gravely wounded. McCall is soon rescued by Enzo Arisio (Remo Girone), a doctor in a small town on the shores of Southern Italy. McCall quickly becomes comfortable in Italy, forming close friendships with Enzo and many of the locals, but soon discovers that his new home is under the control of the Silician Mafia. With limited options, he must once again take matters into his own hands by going to war against his dangerous new adversaries.

If you’ve seen the prior Equalizer films, you should know exactly what you’re getting into with the latest installment. It follows a similar formula as the previous films while trading in the suburbs of Boston for a European setting. For the most part, this works. The new location puts Washington’s character in unfamiliar territory where he doesn’t know everybody by name or have the help of his late friend Susan (Melissa Leo). The film hints that Emma (Dakota Fanning), a young CIA analyst, will play a major role in aiding McCall’s latest gratuitous path of revenge, but for the majority of the film’s runtime, her subplot never takes off. Outside a reveal that comes at the film’s third act, Fanning’s role feels mostly forgettable. But that isn’t why you’re coming to see this sequel.

Fuqua and screenwriter Richard Wenk are completely aware that the audience is showing up to see Washington inflict almost cartoonish levels of pain against any mobster who stands in his way, and that’s what you get. While there is a 15-minute stretch in the film’s second act where the titular vigilante is nearly absent, every other minute of the film is time well spent. Washington may not be as young as some of the modern-day action stars like Chris Hemsworth or Michael B. Jordan, but he’s still extremely believable in this action-heavy role. He’s intimidating, fierce, and dangerous, but also extremely charismatic and lovable. Sure, the movie shows him doing things to the human body that many would presume to be impossible, but at the same time, he’s the kind of character you’d be more than happy to sit at an Italian bakery and have some tea with. Between all the violence, the film has several scenes showing Washington doing just that, and yet it never manages to bore you. If The Equalizer films were to star any other actor other than Washington, we probably wouldn’t have ever gotten a third movie, or even a second movie for that matter. Much like the first two films, The Equalizer 3 works because of Washington’s total commitment to this role.

‘The Equalizer 3’ Won’t Disappoint Longtime Fans, but It’s Not Going to Convert the Naysayers

Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) pointing a gun in 'The Equalizer 3'
Image via Sony Pictures

While the latest Equalizer film may not live up to the previous two installments, it still comes pretty close. The story is nearly nonexistent for much of the runtime, but it does make up for that by having some of the trilogy’s most gory sequences to date. The violence is almost on the level of a Saw movie and the amount of tonal whiplash between scenes of Washington buying fish at the local market to dismembering bad guys isn’t going to convert anybody who wasn’t big on the previous installments.

Fuqua has always been great at directing the ultimate “Dad” movies, and the first two Equalizer films have always had a special spot in the “Dad Movie Hall of Fame.” The pacing is brisk without once overstaying its welcome, it has an ultra-charismatic lead, plus boasts all the violence, chaos, and melodrama one could want out of this particular movie.

2023 has brought audiences some technically marvelous and innovative action movies, such as the latest installments in the John Wick and Mission: Impossible franchises, and while The Equalizer 3 may not live up to the high heights set by those films, it still delivers on having plenty of satisfying action of its own. What more could you possibly ask for?

Rating: B

The Big Picture

  • Denzel Washington’s latest performance as Robert McCall in The Equalizer 3 showcases his incredible range as both a dramatic actor and an action star.
  • The third installment follows a similar formula to its predecessors while introducing a new European setting and an epic path of revenge against the Sicilian Mafia.
  • While the story may be lacking at times, the film makes up for it with intense action sequences that will satisfy longtime fans. However, it won’t win over those who weren’t already on board with the franchise.

The Equalizer 3 is now playing in theaters everywhere.

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