‘The Equalizer 3,’ which is the third chapter of ‘The Equalizer’ movie franchise and was originally based on the 1980’s TV series of the same name, opens in theaters on September 1st and is once again directed by Antoine Fuqua (‘The Magnificent Seven,’ ‘Olympus Has Fallen’).
What is the plot of ‘The Equalizer 3’?
Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) moves to Southern Italy to escape from his past, but later discovers that his new friends are under the control of the Sicilian Mafia. With the help of a young CIA agent (Dakota Fanning), Robert unleashes his past self to protect his new friends.
Who is in the cast of ‘The Equalizer 3’?
Against all odds ‘The Equalizer’ franchise has become one of the most reliable action series in cinema, right up there with the ‘John Wick’ movies, and the third chapter does not disappoint. Director Antoine Fuqua adds a new tone by taking Robert McCall’s story to Italy, which breathes fresh life into the franchise without ever betraying the spirit of the popular protagonist. Denzel Washington has truly created one of his most memorable characters with McCall, and has unforgettable onscreen chemistry with co-star Dakota Fanning, reuniting with the actress for the first time since their work on the 2004 now-classic ‘Man on Fire.’
Story and Direction
The original ‘The Equalizer’ loosely adapted the 80’s TV series by introducing us to Robert McCall (Denzel Washington), a retired CIA operative trying to live a quiet life in Boston. When outside forces threaten the small community he has created, McCall strikes back raining fire and vengeance down upon them. By the end of the first film, McCall has decided to put his skills to use helping those that can’t help themselves, which was the basic plot of the original TV series.
‘The Equalizer 2’ saw McCall in Boston making good on his promise from the first film and helping the unfortunate. But when his close friend and former CIA colleague Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) is murdered by McCall’s former partner Dave York (Pedro Pascal), McCall releases a personal vendetta on York and his former team members.
In ‘The Equalizer 3,’ we meet an older McCall, tired from his revenge-for-hire business, on a mission in Italy to right another wrong for an American family that lost their savings to an international gangster with terrorist ties. After an injury, McCall is taken to a small Italian town and nursed back to health by a local doctor named Enzo (Remo Girone). McCall soon comes to love the town and the people in it, including a waitress named Aminah (Gaia Scodellaro), who McCall has affection for. But when the town and its people are threatened by the same family of mobsters that McCall was trying to stop in the first place, he vows to take them all down one by one to save the town and protect its people. In order to do that, he enlists the help of a CIA agent named Emma Collins (Dakota Fanning), who unbeknownst to her, has a secret connection to McCall in her past.
As action-packed as ‘The Equalizer’ franchise is, and as much as we all love seeing Denzel Washington systematically killing bad guys, the series is really a character study, and that has never been more apparent than in ‘Equalizer 3.’ By putting McCall in a new and foreign setting to him, it allows director Antoine Fuqua to slow the action just a bit and really explore what years of violence has done to this man that we’ve grown to love over the course of the previous films. It also doesn’t hurt that the character is portrayed by one of the most beloved actors of all time, who brings all that love and grace with him to the role, but more on that in a minute.
Fuqua wisely opens the movie with a fantastic action sequence, which was featured in the trailer and sets the pace for the film before slowing it down to explore McCall’s state of mind to great effect. While some might just be waiting for the next action sequence, they will end up captivated by McCall’s journey, meeting the town’s people and watching him find a feeling of home in this town, which will give him his motivation for the explosive second half of the film.
There is a comparison to be made between Fuqua and Washington’s collaborations and those of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. In addition to ‘The Equalizer’ franchise, Fuqua and Washington have made together the Oscar-winning ‘Training Day’ and the western remake ‘The Magnificent Seven.’ The director and actor clearly have a strong shorthand together that works, as it does here again with this film.
There is no arguing that Denzel Washington is one of the greatest screen actors of all time. His body of work speaks volumes, so I won’t bother listing them all as everyone knows his resume. But in this modern age of superhero movies, a serious actor like Denzel could easily have slipped away from making box office hits but instead has embraced a franchise based on an old TV show and has turned McCall into his own version of a modern day superhero by infusing the character with his real-life integrity and gravitas. We root for McCall because we love Denzel, and we love seeing him … as the actor has said publicly, “get the guys we can’t get.”
Washington takes the opportunity in ‘Equalizer 3,’ to really explore his character’s emotions in an authentic way that the franchise has not had a chance to do previously, while never really jeopardizing the pace or the action. After four films together Washington clearly trusts Fuqua, and it shows in his performance in this movie, as Robert McCall has truly become one of Washington’s signature characters.
‘Man on Fire’ Reunion
But one of the best parts of ‘The Equalizer 3’ is seeing the ‘Man on Fire’ reunion between actress Dakota Fanning and Washington. ‘Man on Fire’ is a 2004 Tony Scott classic, and one of the best films of Washington’s long and respected career. Fanning starred opposite Washington when she was just 10 years old and the two actor’s chemistry together in that movie was unforgettable … seriously, you should watch it if you haven’t! So, seeing Dakota and Denzel together again was a real treat, and their chemistry together is as good now as it ever was. Washington clearly has a lot of affection for Fanning, and that plays well with their character’s secret connection. Fanning is also believable as a young CIA agent, and the movie benefits from her presence.
While the movie is thoroughly enjoyable, both through its action-sequences and its performances, it does lag a bit in the first act, after the cold open action scene. The scenes are still enjoyable, and it establishes McCall’s connection to his new community for what is to come, but some viewers looking for non-stop action, may find these sequences tedious.
The movie also lacks any original villains, and instead gives us generic Italian mafia bad guys. The first film at least established a ‘Die Hard’ Hans Gruber-type villain in Marton Csokas’ assassin Nicolai Itchenko, and the second movie had a personal antagonist in Pedro Pascal’s Dave York. In ‘The Equalizer 3’ we are given Andrea Scarduzio’s Vincent Quaranta, a spoiled narcissist with delusions of grandeur, who could easily be swapped into any James Bond or John Wick movie as the generic villain and has no real emotional to the story.
Will there be an ‘Equalizer 4’?
That’s hard to say, but neither Fuqua or Washington have said they wouldn’t be interested, and the movie certainly leaves the possibility for more stories featuring Washington’s version of Robert McCall. And now that Fanning’s Emma Collins has been established, she could make a great ally for McCall moving forward.
Also, director Antoine Fuqua has mentioned during the press tour for ‘The Equalizer 3’ that he has considered doing an ‘Equalizer’ prequel. He’s considered both the idea of de-aging Washington, similar to what was done with Harrison Ford for some scenes in ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,’ as well as the idea of casting Washington’s own son, John David Washington (‘Tenet’) as a young McCall.
‘The Equalizer 3’ is a worthy addition to the extremely enjoyable ‘Equalizer’ franchise and Denzel Washington and director Antoine Fuqua have recaptured the magic of the previous films while expanding on the emotional journey of the title character. Dakota Fanning is a delightful addition to the franchise, and seeing her reunite with Washington is a true treat for fans of the classic ‘Man on Fire.’
‘The Equalizer 3’ receives 8 out of 10 stars.
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‘The Equalizer 3’ is produced by Escape Artists, Columbia Pictures, Fuqua Films, and Eagle Pictures, and is scheduled for release on September 1st.