The final act of vengeance lies waiting for audiences in The Equalizer 3, the penultimate chapter of one of the greatest action sagas of the last decade, and Hollywood megastar Denzel Washington, together with celebrated filmmaker Antoine Fuqua go all out on this full-on action rush.
Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) 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.
In 2014, director Antoine Fuqua, along with Hollywood A-lister Denzel Washington, set out to reignite the action genre. They took it and long-time genre fans on one hell of a ride as they resurrected the character of super assassin Robert McCall and gave him a new purpose as a protector of the vulnerable and the victimized. The Equalizer was an action film driven by character, and its approach to the style of the genre made audiences sit up as Washington’s McCall eviscerated the Russian Mob. In 2018, Washington returned as McCall for a far more personal and violent vendetta that cemented his character as an avenger. Now, in 2023, Washington’s McCall returns for a third and final time in the series most intense and passionate entry yet. And make no mistake when I say that The Equalizer 3 is one of the coolest films of the year.
Whereas in previous chapters of the franchise, Robert McCall was a reactionary force for justice, in The Equalizer 3, we find him proactively fighting for justice. And this leads him to his most violent and dangerous test yet. Director Antoine Fuqua moves the action away from McCall’s native Massachusetts and places him in Southern Italy, and he’s firmly on the hunt. One action leads to another, and soon McCall lands in a tranquil fishing town on the edge of the Amalfi Coast. While its people welcome him and he finds himself on the verge of peace for the first time, a dark shadow has cast itself over McCall’s paradise, and soon, this angel of death must reach for his blade to deliver his form of vigilante justice.
For Antoine Fuqua, The Equalizer 3 allows the filmmaker to bring a proper conclusion to this epic action story while expanding his directing style. Fuqua lets McCall’s character drive the pace of the narrative, and he brings a grand and epic sense of style to the visuals that arrive on screen. Fuqua does not rush the narrative, instead letting it play out at its own pace, with McCall’s actions revealing themself step by step. The result is a film that is equal parts emotional drama and visceral action, fully holding the audience’s attention.
Two-time Academy Award winner Denzel Washington returns for his final performance as vigilante hero Robert McCall, a former government assassin turned avenger, and he faces a battle for his very soul in this final chapter. Washington’s McCall is a hunter of this story, pursuing a dangerous conspiracy that takes a dramatic turn. For the first time, audiences see McCall in a vulnerable position, and this juxtaposition leads to considerable growth for McCall’s character. He has to contend with the philosophical question of whether he’s a good man who does bad things or a bad man who does good things. And Washington’s sense of pathos and internal contemplation play into McCall’s character development.
But after McCall finally finds peace, a sinister force threatens his loved ones, and he must unleash the monster trapped inside of him one last time. The Equalizer 3 sees Washington transformed into a literal angel of death as McCall, clad all in black and striking from the shadows with brutal effect. Again, Washington and Fuqua play into the closed-fisted, mano-o-mano combat that audiences have come to see as an integral part of the franchise. But this action also serves as a narrative tool and is operatic in its display. In the guise of an almost saintly executioner, Washington unleashes the fury one last time, and it’s a character-defining battle for Robert McCall.
The Equalizer 3 also marks a reunion between Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning. In 2004, this pairing impressed audiences with their committed and poignant work in the seminal action thriller Man on Fire. Nineteen later, these two performers share the screen again, and it’s enjoyable to watch. Fanning steps into the role of Emma Collins, a young CIA operative who comes into McCall’s world and soon becomes a quasi-alley to the veteran vigilante. With a fearless mix of tenacity and curiosity, Fanning’s Collins holds court with Washington’s McCall, and the chemistry they previously shared together is still as sharp as ever.
Washington’s McCall has tangled with some pretty nasty villains in his time, and now he faces the sinister presence of the Camorra, the mafia elite of Naples. And it’s a blood-for-blood fight. McCall’s chief adversary in The Equalizer 3 is the smart, savvy and sinister Vincent Quaranta, played in a dashing yet dangerous performance by Andrea Scarduzio. Scarduzio strikes a volatile yet polished presence as Quranta, making McCall the object of a personal vendetta. For all his stance as a ‘legitimate businessman’, Scarduzio’s Quaranta is a man prone to sadistic acts, and the danger is real with this brutal antagonist. Quaranta and the Camorra’s presence give McCall a worthy adversary to combat in The Equalizer 3. And things get bloody quickly.
Two key contributing factors to the energy and dynamism of The Equalizer 3 are the presence of cinematographer Robert Richardson and composer Marcelo Zarvos. As a three-time Academy Award winner, Richardson is one of the best in the business, and his incredible eye elevates the pictures’ striking visual presence. Richardson captures the tranquil beauty and peace of the Amalfi coast and balances this against the grim-dark danger of Naples’s shady and seedy underbelly. Richardon’s vision for the film reflects a deep film noir style, with elements of Caravaggio’s Chiaroscuro baked in for good measure, and this haunting visual style marks out The Equalizer 3 as something unique amongst the action genre. Adding an aggressive intensity to The Equalizer 3 is Marcelo Zarvos’ masculine score, and its high-energy, thumping beat will get your adrenaline going.
Audiences seeking their action fix will get it with The Equalizer 3. And this is an action film that goes straight for the jugular. Director Antoine Fuqua revs up the narrative’s intensity and violence in all its visceral flair. The violence and action of this picture serve a unique narrative function, and there’s nothing flashy or fancy about the film’s brutal combat. Washington carves his way through the worst of the worst in The Equalizer 3, making for a gnarly watch.
Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua conclude Robert McCall’s journey with The Equalizer 3. In my opinion, this is the best film of the franchise and is a fitting ending for one of the last decades’ most defining screen heroes. It’s character-driven, morally complex, kick-ass action cinema, and you’ll feel the rush.
Image: Sony Pictures