Home Reviews Review: ‘The Equalizer 3’Denzel Washington Is A Lion In Winter In Brutal,...

Review: ‘The Equalizer 3’

Denzel Washington Is A Lion In Winter In Brutal, Satisfying Final Chapter

You couldn’t make the Equalizer films with just anybody. It had to be somebody like Denzel Washington to play righteous badass Robert McCall. These movies, while known for their brutal, exacting violence, have never been just action movies. They are a character study about a man seeking redemption using the only skill at his disposal, all the while seeking to find a place to call home. The Equalizer 3 is the culmination of that story, and it has a real “Lion in Winter” feel to it. As such, it’s probably the most human and least violent of the franchise, but also possibly the best.

The opening minutes don’t suggest that anything will be held back, though. It begins in Sicily where McCall has wiped out an entire stronghold of mob enforcers and their leader in typically grisly fashion. McCall is older now, but just as cooly confident as ever. He even does the watch thing, counting down the seconds it’ll take before everyone in the room is dead at his hands. But on the way out, McCall lets his guard down and takes a bullet to the spine. He survives, but only with the aid of a doctor in a small Italian village that is under the grip of the Camorra, or the Mafia.

McCall’s story has always been interesting because he’s more than just some blind killer. He’s attempting to fix a violent past by helping those who can’t help themselves. It’s the same premise that fueled the original television series and even the current one led by Queen Latifah. Solid stuff. But there has to come a progression, and we see it in The Equalizer 3. What will a tortured soul like McCall do when he finds the one place that truly offers him solace? Well, he’ll defend it with his life, that’s what he’ll do. And as McCall befriends the people of this town, he also makes enemies of the Mafia, and promises to wipe them out. But following his injuries, is this aging warrior even able to do it?

Fans eager for a Man on Fire reunion will be happy to see the presence of Dakota Fanning as CIA analyst Emma Collins. A desk jockey until McCall gives her a career-changing tip, there’s an interesting link between them that serves as the film’s one lingering mystery. Collins is smart, resourceful, and courageous; all qualities that McCall respects. One of the things about McCall is that he’s a genuinely good person and comes across as well-traveled but approachable. When he and Collins banter, it feels natural, even friendly. There’s a reason for why they might have such an easy connection, and the payoff is well worth the wait if you’re invested in McCall’s complete story, as I definitely am.

It’ll be interesting to see how audiences react to the film, though. There is a lot of McCall just finding his way in Italy, making friends, drinking coffee (“tea is for old English women”, a potential love interest tells him), and being at peace. Of course, when the bloodshed erupts it’s relentless. McCall, who is often covered in shadow like a villain from a horror movie, destroys his foes with every terrible object he can find, usually gutting them like a fish or stabbing their eyeballs out. In one case, he tortures the mob boss’s wild brother with a nasty nerve hold that had me cringing in my seat. There isn’t a ton of this grisly stuff in the movie, which might be why it flashes back to some of McCall’s earliest kills, but what we do get is pretty rough and not for the weak.

Washington reteams with director Antoine Fuqua once again, and they are just a perfect pair to do The Equalizer the kind of respect it deserves. Just as McCall has aged like a fine wine, so have Washington and Fuqua grown in maturity with each movie. If this is truly the last one, I can’t think of a better way for it to go out. Yes, the story is a bit slight and the bad guys more bland than usual, but the trade off is that McCall has never been more compelling.

The Equalizer 3 is in theaters now.

The Equalizer 3
Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.