The Equalizer 3
By: Adam Freed
By the age of seventy most people have had either the good fortune or good sense to settle comfortably into retirement and enjoy the fruits of their labor. The golden years are a time to explore the world and joyfully engage in reminiscent reunions with those who have helped shape a life well lived. It's a good thing that Denzel Washington isn’t most people. A year shy of seventy, the legendary actor seems to have his own take on how he would like his golden years to play out. Unlike the common person, Washington maintains his employment, contributing in a multitude of ways to the creation of high quality visual entertainment. Recently, the two time Academy Award winner landed a brilliant artistic swing in Joel Coen’s boldly rendered The Tragedy of MacBeth (2021) prior to reprising his role as Robert McCall in the recently released The Equalizer 3. Denzel (so few actors can maintain global recognition on the merit of their first name alone) has settled into a modest pace that has allowed for the only trilogy in his robust filmography to unfold over the past nine years. Although showing no signs of embarking on retirement, the third film in The Equalizer franchise gracefully plays many notes in the same key.
In what is sure to be the last of The Equalizer films, Washington’s McCall, a former government operative turned advocate for the perpetually wronged, finds himself sinking into a comfortable life in a breathtakingly quaint village along Italy’s southern coastline. What led McCall to the region in the first place is not initially revealed, yet the bloodstained casualties left in his wake hint at a familiar story of their own. What is sold as an action thriller, could be interpreted as director Antoine Fuqua’s love letter to the Campania region of Italy, whose picturesque azure shorelines offer a whispered invitation from the shadows of Mount Vesuvius. If indeed this is Fuqua’s intent, the amorous invitation of this film would need to be signed in blood. To the director’s credit, he makes falling in love with the small village and its people extremely tempting. The breathtaking Amalfi coastline is counterbalanced by the trail of death that follows McCall’s vengeance, an unmissable nod to iconic travel thriller The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999). Both films masterfully lure audiences to the Italian coastal utopia, willingly ignoring the life threatening red flags flying on shore. In a perverse and satisfyingly violent way, could this be Denzel’s version of golden years travel?
Building upon the undeniable travel based tenet of retirement, is the hard to miss multi-tiered reunions alive within The Equalizer 3. This film permits Washington to gaze back upon his career with fondness on two fronts. First with the aforementioned Antoine Fuqua, who dares not sell a film without mentioning that it was he who directed Training Day (2001), the film that netted Denzel his first Academy Award for best actor. This latest collaboration marks the fifth time the director and actor have teamed on a project, a delightful opportunity for some storytelling to say the least. Although the Fuqua / Washington pairing makes for a pleasant watch, it is the appearance of Dakota Fanning, a former A-list child star, who famously stood toe to toe with Washington in Tony Scott’s gritty and emotionally robust Man on Fire (2004). It is a marvel to witness Fanning, now almost thirty, share screen space with the legendary actor once again. Although the once unlimited promise of her career has floated down to reality, Fanning’s casting opposite Washington adds a welcome piece of nostalgia to what was already a supremely watchable revenge thriller. Denzel has made no less than ten films superior to The Equalizer 3, yet there is something satisfyingly nostalgic about traveling the world with a few old friends and glancing back upon the glory days. If this is what retirement looks like for Denzel Washington, then let's hope it lasts another twenty years.
Target Score: 6/10 A tightly wound culmination to the revenge action franchise. This film features a gorgeous setting and a performance from Denzel worthy of his prestigious filmography.