Sit down and strap in, boys, girls and people, the old-man version of John Wick is back for his final chapter. Antoine Fuqua (Emancipation) and Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth) return to finish their action-packed, crime-thriller of The Equalizer trilogy. The Equalizer 3 sees Washington’s retired government assassin character Robert McCall across the ocean in Europe. He also finds himself in some new kinds of justice-serving trouble. To add, he went back to the bald look from the first film—ditching the youthfully spry hair from The Equalizer 2.
The Equalizer 3 finds McCall back in his habitual retirement mood, but local trouble always comes to antagonize him. This time he hopes to find some kind of solace in Southern Italy as he befriends some of the locals. First, the local police marshal Gio Bonucci (Eugenio Mastrandrea) and a retired doctor Enzo Arisio, and another being Gaia Scodellaro’s café barista/waitress Aminah. Things began calm for McCall but became intertwined with the local crime bosses, and crazily enough, he must take on the racketeering mafia family known as the Camorras.
Dakota Fanning’s CIA agent character Emma Collins was a lovely reunion between her and Washington on-screen. I felt like they definitely had that chemistry strong and alive since doing Man On Fire back in 2004. The film definitely needed more scenes of them together—I was quite upset with that! Emma and Frank Conroy (David Denman) were CIA agents who tracked McCall’s “anonymous tip” to Italy, bringing in more players into the fray.
One of the disappointing factors in this climactic film was that it provided the least backstory on McCall’s past, compared to the last two films. The only real piece of information that was enlightening intel was revealed at the end, but nothing out of the common movie storytelling tropes.
The storytelling in The Equalizer 3 felt like it was rushed at times, primarily around the second act. A lot of the moments when characters were bonding on-screen with certain dialogues felt like they filmed it but just was not shown. Maybe it was filler content, but they could have worked it in a little but to show the satisfaction of it happening—a classic case of ‘show don’t tell’. Maybe it was not that it felt like the scenes were too fast, but it felt like certain scenes were cut out—out of fear that the runtime might be too long. It was a bold gamble, but I think it could have been longer, if this is truly the last of The Equalizer films.
“The Equalizer 3 quenched my thirst but did not deliver a full-course meal.”
As a final act and send-off for Washington in this role, the kills and moments where McCall was able to slow down time to execute his planned kills were quite under-utilized. I felt like the creativity of the action was really lacklustre, especially in comparison to the last two films. I felt like it was getting the slight treatment that Liam Neeson’s Taken trilogy got, where Washington may not have been able to sell some of the fast-paced action as much as he used to or for other potential reasons.
Most of the action was either off-screen or it was simple executions. However, the moments where Washington shined came before inflicting harm or killing his targets with his iconic monologues of “you better prepare yourself before you die.” Washington has not lost his charm at all. I would say the heart of the film was in the interactions McCall had with each of the Italian townsfolk.
The stakes of The Equalizer 3 were dire at times, with every antagonistic moment of the mafiosos on the locals as McCall just idly watched until he could not bear restraint any longer. It was interesting to see Eugenio Mastrandrea’s character in this compared to his romantic side of him in the Netflix rom-com drama limited series From Scratch, where he acted alongside Zoe Saldana. Going from chef to police officer was an interesting change, and I hope he can break into more Hollywood films to see his range.
When I walked out of the theatre, my main thoughts were that The Equalizer 3 cemented how great of an actor Washington has been and never lost his ability to make audiences squirm or laugh. With a runtime of just under two hours, I thought the film could have been longer with more hints at McCall’s past. I considered everything again a few times over, and I would have liked some tie-in back to the first film somehow, as well. However, this version of The Equalizer world loves to build itself as semi-detached crime-thrilling moments in McCall’s life—meeting and saving new people every time. The Equalizer 3 quenched my thirst but did not deliver a full-course meal.