Principal Cast : Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Eugenio Mastrandrea, David Denman, Sonia Ben Ammar, Remo Girone, Gaia Scodellaro, Andrea Scaruzio, Andrea Dodero, Salvatore Ruocco, Alessandro Pess.
Synopsis: Robert McCall finds himself at home in Southern Italy but he discovers his friends are under the control of local crime bosses. As events turn deadly, McCall knows what he has to do: become his friends’ protector by taking on the mafia.
I’m not sure what triggers the feeling, but there’s a sense of euphoric elation watching Denzel Washington wandering through the streets of a Southern Italian village just murdering fools. I mean, for all intents and purposes Washington’s titular “equalizer”, Robert McCall, is just as bad a dude as the guys he’s putting down, given he seems to operate above, beneath and around – but always outside – the law, and is given literal impunity by the agencies with which he comes into contact, so by rights the moral conflict of watching the butchery that occurs in The Equalizer 3 should feel a touch icky to any sane viewer. It isn’t, though. Because while McCall is the kind of guy who only punches up when required, the bad guys are almost always portrayed as the lowest, scummiest assholes to ever walk the earth. Which makes their eventual demise, in a number of gloriously gory ways, feel all the more cathartic. Probably because we’re thankful it’s not us at the other end of Denzel’s withering ice-stare or deadpan murderous abilities.
Now, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the second Equalizer film, and felt it was more a product of committee and Washington’s contractual obligation than a serious attempt to build on what had come before. The first film was a nice bit of violent fun, and in both instances Denzel appears to be at least having a great time doing his imitation of John Wick or Liam Neeson from Taken. Equalizer 3 repudiates the forlorn nature of the first sequel by stepping up and delivering an absolute cracker of a third entry, revitalising both the franchise and my appreciation of it. Antoine Fuqua seems to understand now what makes audiences enjoy this wanton violence, recognises it’s his leading man that carries the tune, and just throws off the shackles completely.
The plot here revolves around a two-pronged narrative, one of which works well, and the second of which feels an awful lot like they’re trying to set up an ongoing franchise subplot. The main story point involves McCall taking on a bunch of Italian mafioso threatening the small village he’s recuperating in (recuperating from injuries sustained in an opening sequence suckerpunch) and it goes for the various thugs and henchmen about as well as you’d expect. The secondary plot has Dakota Fanning playing an FBI Agent trying to crack the case of a drug shipment in the Italian port city of Naples, with the tangential links between both her and McCall one of the weaker elements of the movie. Perhaps the biggest mistake the film makes, and it doesn’t make very many, is the tenuous link between the Mafia plot and the drug bust plot, and while there is motivation there it’s brushed by with a few minor lines of dialogue and not much else.
Still, you’re here to watch Denzel do his Denzeliest deadpan delivery and glower-shade dissection of all the antagonist assholes who come into his path. And boy howdy, Equalizer 3 has some bone-crunching, blood-spattering, head-shredding violence to enjoy, so have at it. The slicing, dicing and general defenestration, decapitation, amputation and atomisation that occurs within this film is amped up by Fuqua’s solid direction and unflinching gaze, enabled by legitimately decent character work by the smattering of Italian actors in supporting roles. Make no mistake, the bad guys absolutely deserve all the carnage inflicted upon them, and at no point do you feel sorry for them (well, maybe just a little), so if you’re in any way squeamish you’d be best served avoiding this one. If, however, you’re like me and don’t mind a little sadistic vengeance wrought upon the worst of the worst, Equalizer 3 is your ticket to a good time, backdropped by some lovely Italian landscapes and settings and Washington’s stoic, dependably ace performance. At least this time he doesn’t feel like he’s phoning it in.