Film Review: The Equalizer 3

Film Reviews

The Equalizer 3
Director: Antoine Fuqua

Escape Artists
In Theaters: 09.01

“Third time’s the charm” rarely applies to film. From The Godfather Part III to Spider-Man 3, the third chapter in a trilogy often holds a dishonorable place in the movie pantheon. The Equalizer 3 manages to hit the mark more often than most threequels, in part because it doesn’t bother to aim too high.

The Equalizer 3 begins with Robert McCall (Denzel Washington, Training Day, The Tragedy of Macbeth) in Italy. The former government assassin can’t seem to resist stepping in to perform the odd, freebie job whenever there’s someone who particularly has it coming, seeking a kind of redemption by using his talent to fight for justice on behalf of the oppressed and downtrodden. McCall unexpectedly finds a sense of peace and belonging in Southern Italy, and just as he starts to make a new life for himself, he learns that the people in town are under the thumb of local crime bosses. As the situation escalates, McCall realizes that there’s only one path forward: He must step up and take on the mafia himself.

Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Emancipation) is very comfortable with the blueprint he’s established for these films, and he knows how to build tension to a boiling point with great expertise. As with the previous entries in the series, The Equalizer 3 is brutally and graphically violent, following the basic formula of showing us just how shockingly nasty these baddies are, pushing it as far possible in order to make us feeling justified in gleefully rooting for McCall to use them as combination pincushions and crash test dummies. While the finale isn’t as inventive as the original’s and almost feels too easy, it plays well enough. The basics are the same as always, though the allure of the rustic Italian setting is considerable, especially with Robert Richardson (Goodfellas, Kill Bill, The Horse Whisperer), one of the true gods of cinematography, behind the camera. In many ways, The Equalizer 3 plays like a scenic postcard with the message “Wish You Were Dead” scribbled on the back.   

The fact that this simple premise has successfully been stretched out to three films is due most of all to the towering presence of their star, and fellow Denzealots such as myself get a big charge out of seeing Washington as an unstoppable action hero. The mixture of sophisticated charm and icy ruthlessness that the two-time Oscar winner brings to the role may still not put the films up there with his finest work, but it’s easily among his most entertaining. In this case, we get an extra treat in the reteaming of Washington with Dakota Fanning, Washington’s diminutive co-star in Man on Fire from nearly 20 years ago. This time, Fanning plays Emma Collins, an active CIA agent working out of Italy following the trail of drug money.  While Fanning’s dynamic with Washington at age 29 is different from the one they had when she was just nine, it’s still a match of two stellar performers with incredible chemistry.

The Equalizer 3 is a spicy Italian meatball that packs a kick, and it will certainly satisfy fans of the franchise and Washington fans in general. It’s a fas- moving and enjoyable slam-bang action thriller that gets the job done, and it’s likely to be one of the better popcorn movies of the fall season. –Patrick Gibbs

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