The Equalizer 3
Updated: Oct 13, 2023
Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua's surprising action trilogy is solidly reliable
Despite its enjoyable action and deadly Denzel Washington performance, I wouldn’t have pegged The Equalizer (2014) as the potential start of an action franchise. Yet, slowly but surely, Washington and director Antoine Fuqua have delivered a rather solid and enjoyable action trilogy.
The Equalizer 3 (2023) finds our protagonist Robert McCall (Washington) and his particular set of skills in Sicily, where he takes on the Italian camorra. After enjoying a loveable seaside Italian town, McCall is forced out of “retirement” when the mafia begins harassing his kind neighbors.
Fuqua returns to direct this third film, having helmed all the films in the franchise. The American director has quietly built an impressive filmography, demonstrating an effective talent, delivering restrained character pieces with earned bursts of action in Training Day (2001), The Southpaw (2015) and The Magnificent Seven (2016). With The Equalizer 3, Fuqua brings a surprising slow burn build-up of tension, with villains’ acts of cruelty piling on while the retribution is held teasingly back. Likewise, Fuqua takes time to develop side characters, giving the Italian supporting players depth, and avoids falling into stereotypes. This helps add intrigue to the action scenes, as viewers are motivated to see cruel mobsters get their comeuppance. This, along with creative kills, helps wave off the fact that there’s not much choreography or gunplay; in fact, McCall acts more like a malicious stalking ghost than an assassin when he’s set loose.
Washington, once again, demonstrates why he is one of the most talented actors working today. The American veteran can still have you hanging on to his every word, despite a rather lackluster script. The relishes in pauses and delight at savoring each scene are contagious and have you buy into his rather cliched and flat character. The patience with scenes and dialogues in Washington’s acting style pair well with Fuqua, clearly their frequent collaborations have melded styles that play to each other’s strengths.
The narrative is bareboned, and the villains are rather overacted, diluting crucial parts of the film. There is also a needless side-plot involving the CIA that was a distraction from the main plot, slowing the pace down considerably. The finale also fails to hit a cathartic crescendo, fading into a resolution rather than delivering the gut-punch that the careful and elongated build-up warranted.
In the end, The Equalizer 3 is a rather enjoyable and solid action flick. When focusing on Washington’s quietly gripping performance along with a patient build-up of tension, it delivers an escapist and satisfying time at the movies.