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The Equalizer 3 Review: A Lot of Fun

The Pitch: So there’s this guy, Robert McCall (Denzel Washington), and he has a very particular set of skills… sorry, wrong franchise. But also, our friend Robert, the titular Equalizer, would probably get along pretty well with Liam Neeson in action mode, as the two share an affinity for killing those that need killing as effectively as possible.

When The Equalizer 3 begins, Robert’s just handled a pretty nasty bit of business on a remote Italian island, but after getting injured in the aftermath, finds himself recovering in a small coastal town — the kind of place where a stranger’s a friend you haven’t met yet, a place filled with good people just trying to get by. Unfortunately for the town, it’s become a target for the literal mafia, with business-minded Vincent (Andrea Scarduzio) not at all shy about using ruthless force to bring the town under his control. Unfortunately for Vincent and every single one of his goons, Robert’s gotten fond of the town — and he’s now feeling up to equalizing this situation.

No “Previously On” Necessary: The Equalizer franchise, such as it is, is a curious one in the year 2023, compared to some of the wildly complex story universes out there. Currently consisting of the original 1980s CBS series, a currently-running CBS reboot starring Queen Latifah as Robyn McCall, and three Denzel Washington-starring/Antoine Fuqua-directed films, it’s limited in scope, with individual installments proving to be largely self-contained.

Put it another way: If you’re intrigued by the idea of watching Denzel Washington straight-up murder a crap-ton of bad guys this weekend, but have never Equalized before now, don’t worry about being lost. While there are elements that tie into the previous films, The Equalizer 3 is exceptionally accessible for newcomers.

Part of that is the familiarity of the story, embracing the tropes of classic Westerns (many of which, appropriately enough, were also shot in Italy): The weary gunslinger in search of peace, the townfolk who offer him a haven, and the ruthless outsiders from whom the townfolk need saving. Yet there’s also a sense that the movie knows how exhausting it can be sometimes, to try to keep up with complex backstories and interconnected narratives. Sometimes, it’s just fun to watch Denzel Washington jam a gun into a guy’s eye and then shoot another guy with that same gun, through the first guy’s head.

On the violence spectrum, Fuqua earns that R rating without question, but while there are some visceral moments to inspire wincing, it’s not quite as intense as, say, the John Wick series. But it also lacks the same sense of choreography that those films feature, which adds an extra patina of brutality to the action. Behind the camera is Quentin Tarantino’s go-to cinematographer Robert Richardson, ensuring this movie looks far better than strictly necessary, while also capturing all of the violence with nice clean shots that leave no confusion as to who got got.

The Equalizer 3 (Columbia)

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