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Denzel Washington returns for the third and final instalment of the Equalizer trilogy, in which former government assassin Robert McCall devotes his time and skills to avenging for the little guy. This time, he finds himself in Mediterranean Europe, embroiled in a fight to protect a coastal town from terrorisation by the Camorra, the Mafia of southern Italy.
The Equalizer 3 shares the contemplative tone and pervasive sense of loss of its predecessors. Here, there’s a focus on physical infirmity and vulnerability, a gunshot McCall receives early on forcing a long recuperation, slow, careful approaches to walking down stairs, and the use of a cane. Action erupts quickly and violently, emphasised by director Antoine Fuqua’s camera and editing – McCall is wounded, but maintains his ruthlessness and murderous efficiency.
We compare the action and Washington to Rambo: Last Blood and its star, Sylvester Stallone, which took a similarly staccato approach to its action, clearly informed by Stallone’s age and inability to move as gracefully as he used to – this film is doing something similar, but less thuggishly, if no less violently. We question the ease with which moral decisions are made in this world, in which right and wrong are easily distinguished and the involvement of a vigilante is sold as an obvious necessity and benefit; the film’s look, which fails to show off its spectacular location; and some of its writing and contrivances, particularly concerning Dakota Fanning’s character, a CIA analyst contacted by Robert, and the Camorra. And we discuss McCall as a neurodivergent superhero.
The Equalizer 3 is a flawed film with a fair bit of dumbness to overlook, but it is easy to do so when the portrait it paints of local life and close community is so absorbing and inviting, and its star has such presence, warmth, and intelligence. It’s an easy film to recommend, bearing in mind that it’s a work of vigilante fantasy. After all, if Batman’s allowed to take the law into his own hands when the institutions around him fail, why shouldn’t Denzel be? At least he doesn’t pretend not to kill people.
With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.