Three films in, we know what to expect from an installment in The Equalizer franchise. Our hero will dispatch the bad guys in absurdly violent fashion, but only after warning them that he doesn’t want to kill anyone. The violent nature of the trilogy has never been hidden, as this has had more in common with the Taken series than the television show it’s based on, but it becomes even more pronounced here. A new location and some repeated religious iconography is just window dressing. This flick is more of the same, just with diminishing returns.
The Equalizer 3 is overly familiar and tired, despite a committed Denzel Washington. There’s also a focus on hyper violence that, while stylish and occasionally morbidly funny, is at odds with the story that the film is trying to tell. This series has always been gory, but while The Equalizer did it well, with The Equalizer 2 falling a bit short, this continues the downward trajectory. Luckily, it appears to be ending with a trilogy. I enjoyed the first one, but the franchise has run its course.
Robert McCall (Washington) has given up his violent past, though he still seems to be doing the odd job here or there. We meet him once again while in Italy, laying waste to some folks in a secluded vineyard. Wounded as he leaves, he’s found by a friendly police officer (Eugenio Mastrandrea) and brought to a small town doctor (Remo Girone). Patched up but needing to heal, McCall spends time adjusting to this quieter life, finding it to his liking. In short order, the town has essentially adopted him, as they’re all impossibly nice people and see the good in him, ignoring what he my have done previously.
Accustomed to the life he’s grown to love in the town, McCall is going to have to get violent once again if he’s to save them. You see, the mafia has decided that this is where they want to take over. Normally, nothing would stand in their way. Of course, they didn’t count on them. Soon, mob boss Vincent Quaranta (Andrea Scarduzio) wants McCall dead. He clearly doesn’t know who he’s up against. While that vendetta is brewing, government agent Emma Collins (Dakota Fanning) is snooping around, tipped off by McCall about some illegal drugs, but curious about who he is. It all eventually comes together, though in a completely predictable manner.
Denzel Washington treats this all pretty seriously, arguably more seriously than the material deserves. He’s comfortable with the character being older and wounded for part of the film, which is an interesting change of pace. Of course, once the killing starts, he’s a superhero, able to do anything and everything the movie requires. It doesn’t ask much of him, but Washington certainly doesn’t phone the role in. Andrea Scarduzio is a one note villain, while Dakota Fanning is mostly wasted. Supporting players include the aforementioned Remo Girone as well as Eugenio Mastrandrea, alongside David Denman, Andrea Dodero, Daniele Perrone, Gaia Scodellaro, and more.
Director Antoine Fuqua can’t resist going over the top here, though writer Richard Wenk is along for the ride as well. Fuqua and Wenk want this to be an examination of peace, but fill it with such violence that the message never fits comfortably. Wenk’s script is too thin when it comes to the characters, too jumbled when it comes to reasons why anything happens, and not nearly concerned enough with doing anything new. Fuqua has a comfort with Denzel Washington, but despite some interesting cinematography from Robert Richardson, does nothing new here. McCall is a killing machine, cliches and all. Rinse and repeat.
The Equalizer 3 brings this series to an end with a continued mixed bag. Depending on how much you’ve liked the previous two films, that will play a lot into how much you like this one. The movie is too violent and too thinly drawn, but there’s a satisfying lizard brain element to it all. So, it’s far from a bad flick, but one that kept me a few steps away from offering up a recommendation.