'The Equalizer 3' Can't Equal 'John Wick' — but It's Still Bad-Ass

Directed by Antoine Fuqua

Starring Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Andrea Scarduzio, Eugenio Mastrandrea, Andrea Dodero, David Denman, Gaia Scodellaro, Remo Girone

Photo: Stefano Montesi

BY Rachel HoPublished Sep 1, 2023

The Equalizer hasn't reached the same heights as John Wick, critically or commercially, but it remains a quiet trilogy deserving of our attention all the same. Denzel Washington as Robert McCall, the former marine and intelligence agent turned vigilante, continues to carry the same badass charisma that debuted in 2014's The Equalizer.

Perhaps one of the reasons The Equalizer films haven't succeeded in the same way as John Wick is their simplicity. Where Keanu Reeves and Chad Stahelski pushed the action genre forward with each chapter, Washington and Antoine Fuqua have excelled within its existing parameters, and The Equalizer 3 is no exception.

The plot of the third chapter is straightforward: McCall is shot and taken to the small fictional town of Altamonte, where he connects with the people and culture as he recuperates; when he discovers that the Camorra regularly terrorizes the township, he steps in. In defending the seaside Sicilian community, we are given a sense of the fondness McCall has developed for them, and the contentedness he had begun to feel after a life of violence and chaos. 

Fuqua elevates the simplicity of the story with humour and thrilling action sequences (this third installment is by far the most gruesome). But it's the softness of the Italian way of life, especially in contrast to the bleaker Boston setting of the first two Equalizer films, that makes the third distinct in the series, aided in large part by the sweeping shots of this idyllic town. This is the fifth collaboration between Washington and Fuqua, and it's clear that they bring out a sense of urgency and fun in one another. 

As CIA Agent Emma Collins, Dakota Fanning's casting in this film will tickle any fans of Man on Fire. Nearly 20 years since their first film together, Washington and Fanning pick up where they left off with an easy chemistry that has grown with them. 

The Equalizer 3 doesn't hang its hat on a clever plot twist or massive stunt. Instead, the film presents a straightforward tale of good guys versus bad guys, all centred on the presence of Washington. As McCall, Washington brings the charisma that has served him well in his 40-plus years as one of Hollywood's greatest actors. For an actor with a stable full of iconic performances, Washington brings a unique authority to McCall. The character doesn't necessarily stand taller than Washington's other performances, but McCall is imbued with a sense of gravitas that can only come with age and experience.

The opening moments of The Equalizer 3 finds McCall sitting in a room filled with wine and a gun pointed at his head by a trembling goon. In a classic McCall move, he warns the four Italians surrounding him they have nine seconds to determine their fate as he starts the timer on his watch. An incredibly beautiful (and gory) sequence, cinematographer Robert Richardson floods the frame with a bright light coming through the windows.

After suitably thrashing the faceless henchmen, McCall sits back down in his seat, illuminated by the harsh yellow light behind him. But let's be real, it's not McCall we see seated casually wiping blood off his wedding ring. All we see is Washington, rightly sitting atop his throne — and it's a damn fun time.
(Sony Pictures)

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