The Equalizer 3 (aka The Equalizer III / EQ3) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
There’s something both grand and simple about how The Equalizer 3 weaves itself better than the previous sequel. It could be the change of scenery, the more straightforward procedural approach, or the more understated performance by Denzel Washington returning to the lead role. There are fewer moral monologues and fewer spewed moral lessons in Robert McCall’s violent quest as a do-gooder. It still has that aspect of fighting for a community amid gangsters, but there’s a key to making this formula more intriguing: McCall isn’t fighting on his home turf.
In this entry, Robert has taken off for Italy to investigate what happened to the stolen money of a cyber-crime scheme. His trail leads him to the den of dangerous men, which McCall makes short work of. He doesn’t, however, shoot the grandson of the enforcer, letting the kid run off after having shot him. With McCall injured and near death, he recovers in the coastal Italian town of Altamonte. While enjoying the simple pleasures of the food and people, he tips off the CIA about a secret drug trade going on with the local gangsters. From there, the fireworks fly as McCall plays enforcer for the residents and local police being assaulted by these violent goons.
McCall becomes more intriguing in this action thriller because he becomes way more aloof and shadowy with his actions. He only comes out of the darkness to thread the CIA closer and take out some henchmen who are clearly going to murder some innocent people. He never forms an intimate bond with the villagers, which is treated as a cross-cultural moment. There are no corny scenes of Washington trying to learn Italian from a sweetheart waitress or teaching a small kid to dance so that he has a reason to save these people later. The unspoken love of people trying to enjoy life is all the insensitivity he needs to confront some gun-toting goons.
This understated setup keeps the film on track with its progression of busting a drug operation and appreciating the spectacle of McCall’s many kills. The enforcer has grown more confident and refined so that he doesn’t waste too much time monologuing about his skills before each impressive takedown. We, the audience, have seen two movies worth of this guy timing his assassinations to be expertly crafted and creatively executed. So the moment McCall starts the clock, there’s some good action on the way, and the film doesn’t disappoint in this department. McCall’s highlights include shootings, stabbings, and a clever hanging that finds a goon crashing through a stained-glass ceiling.
In the realm of action franchises featuring middle-aged stars, The Equalizer 3 succeeds at still feeling exciting and less dreary as a thriller. Director Antoine Fuqua plays up his strengths by staging compelling action and effectively using Washington for more intimidating swagger than blistering banter. At the point where most action series feel like they’re out of gas, this one feels like there’s enough in the tank for another trip.