I will fully admit I had my trepidations going into The Equalizer 3, the latest installment of Sony and Antoine Fuqua’s Denzel Washington-led action franchise now playing in theaters. The first two films, while they each have their moments, are some of the most aggressively okay movies I’ve ever seen from a major studio. That didn’t exactly inspire hope for the third entry.
Thankfully, it seems that the five-year gap between movies allowed Fuqua and his creative team to listen to audience feedback to create an overall more well-rounded movie experience. While The Equalizer 3 does share some of the problems of the first two installments, it manages to fix many of them and ultimately come out as the franchise’s strongest film thus far, even if that isn’t exactly a high bar.
The Equalizer 3 Plot
Also Read: Equalizer 3 Director Reveals How Keanu Reeves’ John Wick is Different from Denzel Washington
Our story begins as retired U.S. Marine and DIA officer (Be honest, you completely forgot that was his backstory), Robert McColl, played once again by Denzel Washington, is critically injured during one of his globe-trotting…….. equalizing missions for lack of a better term, in Sicily, Italy. Fortunately, McColl survives and is taken in by a local officer in the small village of Altamonte.
Over the course of his recovery, McColl learns to love the small town and its people, befriending his doctor Enzo among others, and begins to consider finally retiring for good. However, this peace doesn’t last long as an anonymous smuggling tip makes him the target of the Italian mafia. Now, with the help of CIA agent Emma Collins, played by Dakota Fanning, it’s up to McColl to expose and put a stop to the mob’s operation before it destroys the town and his newfound sense of peace.
So, my big issue with the first two Equalizer movies is that they generally felt very padded. Solid set-ups and stellar climaxes with a lot of vague and boring filler sandwiched in-between. The Equalizer 3 fixes that problem in two ways. First by cutting down the runtime to 109 minutes compared to the 132 and 120 of the first and second films respectively. Secondly, the world of The Equalizer 3 is far more engaging than the first two films.
Anyone who’s been there can tell you Italy is a beautiful country and this film captures that to a tee, showcasing gorgeous vistas and bustling city blocks that make Altamonte feel like a living, breathing place. And that place is populated by a surprisingly charming supporting cast. Enzo, the fishmonger, the waitress McColl befriends at the cafe, none of them have that much screen time but they all make an impression and you start to feel for them alongside McColl.
The villains are all a lot of fun too. I do wish they were more fleshed out individually, but the Italian mafia gimmick feels a lot more fresh than the Russian and American bad guys of previous installments and makes for a fun dynamic. This particularly shines through in a memorable confrontation in a diner already highlighted in the trailers that I won’t dare spoil any further.
The biggest breath of fresh air character-wise though is Dakota Fanning as Emma Collins, both because it’s nice to see a female character in this series that isn’t a victim or love interest and because it gives the normally stoic McColl someone to talk to. The “rookie vs. veteran” idea at play with them works rather well and their scenes together were some of the best in the film.
As for action, The Equalizer 3 is a definite improvement over its predecessors. While the “Home Alone in a Home Depot” and “city-wide sniper battle in a thunderstorm” climaxes of the first two films were great, they were the only real standout moments, often felt like they came too late, and were surprisingly tame overall. Here, there are plenty of memorable action sequences throughout the film, aiding the pace, and they all take full advantage of the film’s R-rating with appropriate carnage and blood splatter.
Honestly, my biggest problem with Equalizer 3 is probably Robert McColl himself. While Denzel Washington does bring plenty of his own charisma to the role, this series has continuously struggled to nail down what exactly McColl’s deal is supposed to be and this film is unfortunately no exception despite their best efforts to make him more relatable through his relationships with the townspeople.
His personality isn’t fleshed out, his wants and/or needs as a protagonist are never really clarified, and I know I joked about it earlier, but his backstory is barely a footnote; leaving several questions unanswered as to why or how he does what he does beyond a general sense of justice and the Marine and DIA retirement fund being apparently very lucrative. He’s just not that interesting of a main character and that’s a fairly big issue for a film like this.
Do I think you need to rush out and see The Equalizer 3 right now? Honestly, no. You’ve seen better action movies, you’ve seen better Denzel Washington movies, and with some of the year’s best films like Barbie, Oppenheimer, or TMNT: Mutant Mayhem still playing in theaters, it’s hard to recommend in good conscious that you spend your hard-earned money on something that’s only pretty alright.
But if you’ve seen all of those other films multiple times and are desperate for something new? Or if you’re one of the people whose actually very invested in The Equalizer franchise (They’re out there somewhere. There’s three of these things, they have to be)? I think you’ll probably have a good time with this one.
The action has been improved, the characters are charming, the setting is beautiful, it doesn’t overstay its welcome, and it brings the journey of Robert McColl to an appropriate and satisfying conclusion. I didn’t think there needed to be another Equalizer movie and I’m honestly hoping they don’t make another one after this, but I’m still glad they closed things out on a relatively high note.