Film Review: The Equalizer 3 sends off a commanding Denzel Washington in an uneven manner

With The Equalizer 3 promoting itself as “the final chapter” of a movie series I think many of us were surprised made it past the 2014 original, there’s an understandable sense of expectation when it comes to the packaged deal of star Denzel Washington, director Antoine Fuqua and screenwriter Richard Wenk.

Whilst the first two films made impressive bank and had relatively positive reviews overall, it’s safe to say they padded out their running times with unnecessary subplots that took the focus away from what these films should truly be about; Denzel Washington cracking skulls and taking names in a gloriously violent fashion.

By all means, both The Equalizer and The Equalizer 2 followed through on delivering carnage, so one would hope that with this third go around we’d be in for more of the same, and with a shortened running time (103 minutes) it seemed even more feasible.  Surely, Fuqua and co. are going out with a bang, right?

Well, initially all signs put to a resounding yes.  In a pre-credit, Sicily-set sequence that utilises slick tracking shots that can’t help but build our anticipation, Fuqua reintroduces us to Washington’s “retired” government assassin Robert McCall in the coolest of manners.  Sitting in a chair surrounded by interchangeable goons, he sprouts a standard “You have x amount of seconds to live” speech before offing them in the grandest, most violent of fashions, setting up the type of unapologetically violent actioner we expect to follow.

Whilst McCall’s age – and, by extension, Washington’s – means we can’t expect an entire movie of him running around executing archetypal European villains, the calm-before-the-storm mentality that Wenk’s script leans into unfortunately undoes any of the film’s opening momentum.  Robert Richardson‘s cinematography is used to the best of its ability though, with the Italian scenery bringing a near-travelogue feel to proceedings, as the initial moments of lakeside villas and quant cobblestone pathways allow us a moment to breathe.  Eventually, however, we’ve completely restocked on our own oxygen waiting for Fuqua to take our breath away once more, something that never seems to entirely happen again.

Not even the climactic sequence of the film – the one we are fully expecting McCall to go hard out on (given what we were given in the previous entries) – gives us the jolt of brutality so desperately needed, especially when the lead villain of the piece, Andrea Scarduzio‘s Vincent, perfectly encapsulates what it is to be a killable character.  On that note, whilst not necessarily Scarduzio’s fault as an actor, his antagonist is the most run-of-the-mill mafia type that The Equalizer 3 feels even more underwhelming as an overall product; Marton Csokas and Pedro Pascal he is not.

Where the threequel maintains its footing though is through Washington.  The charm and on-screen command is still there, and even when the script fails him, Washington refuses to do the same, constantly elevating his material.  It’s also to the film’s benefit that he’s reunited with Dakota Fanning.  Almost 20 years on from their original collaboration – Tony Scott’s Man on Fire – there’s a certain joy in seeing the two bounce off each other, and their first in-person interaction in the film truly reenergises proceedings at a time where the scenery has run its course.

Of course, her intelligence officer is a little more side-lined than what she deserves to be, but Fanning has a similarly commanding presence to her that whenever she’s on screen it’s to our benefit as viewers, and whilst Washington’s time with these films may be done, there’s a certain hint of future stories to be told through Fanning’s Emma Collins, furthered by a nice link to the original films that this film plays as if you’re familiar with; sorry uninitiated, but this third go around has no “Previously on The Equalizer…” to catch you up to speed.

Whilst Denzel and The Equalizer series deserve a stronger send-off than the uneven farewell afforded here, there’s just enough cheap thrills and Washington swag to render this serviceable-enough for the casual movie-goer seeking an escape.


The Equalizer 3 is now screening in Australian theatres.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.