Movie Review: The Equalizer 3

Whenever Denzel Washington’s hopelessly outmanned Robert McCall sets his stopwatch in The Equalizer movies, we know it’s about to get real. Not realistic, but real. It doesn’t matter how many henchmen armed with guns and knives have Robert outnumbered — we know he has superhero- level abilities to essentially slow down time, spot every threat out of the corner of his eye or in a reflection, and it’s only a matter of seconds before his adversaries are laid out on the floor, their bodies bent and mangled and twisted and snapped, crackled and popped in grisly fashion.

Through a trilogy of films spanning nearly a decade, Washington and his Training Day and Magnificent Seven collaborator Antoine Fuqua have created a supremely entertaining, blood-spattered franchise that works because Fuqua is a master at staging creatively gruesome action sequences. Washington brings his Shakespearean gravitas to the table — and we also get some intriguing character traits (Robert has a form of OCD) and a steady stream of sympathetic and good-hearted characters in great need of a mysterious saviour just like Robert McCall.

The now-familiar formula is presented in effective albeit deeply predictable fashion in The Equalizer 3, which is packed with so much symbolism and so many metaphors about faith and redemption and salvation that it almost collapses under the weight of its own heavy-handed approach — yet we can’t help but chuckle knowingly every time Robert quietly cautions his cocky, corrupt adversaries they’re about to have a very short night, and we can’t help but cheer for this world-weary retired Defense Intelligence Agency operative to actually enjoy retirement before he reaches the point where he’s going to need “cheaters” to read the stopwatch function on his wristwatch.

They could have called this one Equalizer Tre, as virtually every scene takes place in Italy. After a gruesome prologue in a winery that leaves Robert shot in the back, our fallen anti-hero must depend on the kindness of strangers in an idyllic, mountainous village on the Amalfi Coast. The benevolent Carabinieri Gio Bonucci (Eugenio Mastrandrea) takes Robert to the kindly Dr. Enzo (Remo Girone), with neitherthe police officer nor the doctor asking questions about what happened.

Once Robert has recovered from his wounds — it takes the time-honoured three days for him to regain consciousness and start hobblin about — he is befriended by a number of benevolent locals, including the comely barista Aminah (Gaia Scodellaro), who offers to introduce Robert to the culinary delights of the village and informs him that the locals consider him “to be one of us now.” Not bad, given Robert has been in town for about three weeks!

Ah, but just when it appears Robert has finally found a place where he can land permanently and live in peace, here comes a pesky gang of ruthless, camorra aka mafia thugs, led by the Quaranta brothers: the ice-cold, pure evil Vincent (Andrea Scarduzio) and the hot-tempered, psychopathic Marco (Andrea Dodero). And isn’t that always the way with Criminal Brothers in the movies — one has the brains and the master plan, and the other is always flying off at the handle and saying things like, “My brother doesn’t control me!”

The motorcycle-riding mobsters are like villains in a Western who keep swooping into town, demanding payoffs and terrorizing the locals. (Their grand plan is to open a major tourist resort that will be totally under their control. It doesn’t seem like they’ve really thought it out.) A local fishmonger’s shop is torched, the friendly cop is beaten and threatened in front of his wife and child — and Robert has no choice but to swing into action.

When he does, it’s as if he’s Batman, appearing out of nowhere in the dead of night, dispatching with one bad guy after another in bone crunching, blood-spurting fashion, with director Fuqua often lingering in the human wreckage so we can really soak it in. Meanwhile, the green but smart and determined American CIA operative Emma Collins has arrived in Italy, acting on a tip from McCall about a widespread drug operation but also keen on learning the truth about McCall — and it’s pretty great that the now grown-up Dakota Fanning has a Man on Fire reunion with Denzel after nearly 20 years.

The Equalizer 3 alternates between gorgeous, travelogue-style visuals during the moments of quiet and a suitably dark and forbidding back-alley look for the violent confrontations. Fuqua and screenwriter Richard Wenk veer close to Godfather territory with an extended sequence that cuts between a somber religious ceremony and extreme carnage, but this is not Important Cinema — it’s well-filmed, well-acted, high-class B-movie pulp, and we get a neat little twist to wrap it all up at the end.

As much as we’ve enjoyed seeing Robert McCall make things right from Boston to Sicily, it feels like it’s time to leave the man alone so he can spend his time sipping tea and anticipating his afternoon nap.

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Boluwatife Adesina is a media writer and the helmer of the Downtown Review page. He’s probably in a cinema near you.


About Author / Boluwatife Adesina

Boluwatife Adesina is a media writer and the helmer of the Downtown Review page. He’s probably in a cinema near you.

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