Finishing off The Equalizer trilogy is the appropriately titled The Equalizer 3. With all the best talent behind the camera returning, including director Antoine Fuqua and writer Richard Wenk, as well as the franchise’s iconic lead – Denzel Washington – Sony Pictures is hoping to conclude this franchise with the series best and go out with a bang!
After leaving his past as a government assassin behind, Robert McCall now seeks solace in dispensing justice for the downtrodden. Settled in Southern Italy, he discovers that his newfound companions in the quiet town are under the sway of local crime lords. As the situation escalates, McCall transforms into their defender, confronting the mafia to shield his friends and confront deadly events head-on.
Having seen the first two Equalizer films back when they were released, I had mixed feelings going into the finale instalment. I thoroughly enjoyed the simple premise of the first film – The Equalizer (2014) – and felt that Denzel Washington brought a unique energy to the action genre as a man forced out of retirement to help the oppressed. Then all the good-will I had for the new franchise was crushed when I saw the sequel. I really struggled to get into The Equalizer 2 (2018), as I just felt the multiple uninteresting subplots, muddled storytelling and bland action never resonated with me. Going into the cinema this time, I was hoping the conclusion to the trilogy would top the first film and end on a high for the franchise.
The Equalizer 3 is a mixed bag. In the first half, I felt myself becoming restless as the slow pace of the film became tiresome. The film felt like it had no purpose as it just moved from scene to scene with no apparent sense of cohesion. Thankfully the final third brought a lot of these confused pieces together for an action-packed finale. I just wish we had been granted more of that throughout the movie.
As much as I enjoyed the final act, I felt there was far too much fluff to get through before the climax of the film. Its slow pacing felt like more of a chore to endure before the film kicked in, rather than an appetiser to compliment the main course. The villains were terribly forgettable and generic, with it constantly feeling like there was no actual danger of McCall failing. In a year where John Wick Chapter 4 was released, I guess I was hoping for more.
I will say that Denzel Washington continues to be as captivating as ever. Especially amidst a cast of forgettable friends and foes, His Robert McCall is the perfect blend of calm yet terrifying. The presence that Denzel brings to the screen is palpable, proving once again that this franchise wouldn’t have been as successful as it is without him front-and-centre. The other highlight worth a mention was the town in Southern Italy that the movie was filmed in. Its stunning cliffside vista adds a level of beauty to the picture that was refreshing after the gritty cityscape of the first two entries.
It’s clear that this film was heavily inspired by the latest Daniel Craig Bond films with its international locale, much younger love interest and “one last mission” feel. Unfortunately I don’t think it helps the film in separating it from other films in the genre. The “what if John Wick was a 60+ year old guy who helps out the little people” was what gave the series its unique voice. Some of that gets lost once it becomes an international CIA operation. It then becomes a sort of poor man’s Mission Impossible. With talks of Antoine Fuqua returning for a prequel to the franchise (The Prequalizer if you will?), I’m hoping that the series can return to its roots.
The Equalizer 3 concludes the trilogy with an entry that never quite reaches the heights of the first, but thankfully learns from its second instalment. There are some great elements to the film – the epic action scenes, the breathtaking shots of Southern Italy – but not enough for me to recommend this film to anyone outside of the core Equalizer fandom.