Denzel Washington is back as Robert McCall in The Equalizer 3. Director Antoine Fuqua caps his trilogy of action thrillers centered around a vigilante with a mysterious past. The new movie sees McCall finding a home in Southern Italy, but trouble soon finds him as he finds himself face-to-face with the Mafia. The first Equalizer movie was a surprise hit, and the second one wasn’t as good, but it had its moments. Unfortunately, the third Equalizer movie is the weakest in the series. The Equalizer 3 is yet another example of diminishing returns.
What has been the best part of every Equalizer movie? The answer is easy: Denzel Washington. He is an incredible actor. He’s one of those rare actors who can say anything, and you believe every word from his mouth. When playing a character as intimidating as McCall, Washington has always had an interesting approach. He does not need to raise his voice to be intimidating. His quiet, assured confidence is what makes him the most terrifying person in the room. An invulnerable character like this can sometimes be boring to watch because we know he will win every fight. However, Washington’s grounded performance makes him captivating to watch.
The opening sequence of The Equalizer 3 kicks off what seems like a hard-R action movie dripping with blood. There have always been a few gnarly kills in this series, and the opening scene gives a few excellent ones. However, after that, the movie slows down quite a bit. Every Equalizer movie has had issues with its plotting and pacing. The first two movies are great when the action is happening, but a few of the moments in between take far too long, particularly with the abundance of subplots. This movie continues that trend, starting out with an action sequence that gets McCall to his setting for the rest of the film. Afterward, the film stalls as he settles down and enjoys his life in this town.
Meanwhile, bad guys are popping up everywhere, disturbing McCall’s peace. During the scenes where the villains are doing their thing, The Equalizer 3 can be investing. It spends a good amount of time making the audience hate them so that you can cheer for their downfall. However, the rest does not work as well. McCall is a passive protagonist for much of the film. His most significant action in the movie’s first half is calling a woman named Emma, played by Dakota Johnson. This is Washington’s and Johnson’s first on-screen reunion since 2004’s Man on Fire.
However, Johnson’s character is boring and one-note. She does not have a lot to do in this movie. It feels as if The Equalizer 3 is grasping at straws in an attempt to give her and Frank (David Denman) anything to do. Their characters mainly exist for expository purposes. By the time the movie ends, you’ll wonder if it would have been any different if the characters were removed entirely. The characters are baggage in an uninteresting story. The plot beats are pedestrian, with some scenes taking a long time while others are rushed. The relationship between McCall and a waitress named Aminah (Gaia Scodellaro) is something that starts but never gets fully resolved by the end.
Speaking of the end, let’s think about what makes an Equalizer movie fun. The best parts of these movies are when McCall has had enough of the despicable people committing crimes. The final acts of the first two Equalizers feature McCall demolishing bad guys one by one with brutal traps. It’s a lot of fun to see the bad guys get what they deserve for the entire movie. However, the final act of The Equalizer 3 is bafflingly disappointing. McCall is mainly seen as a figure in the shadows hunting them down. The movie doesn’t have the novelty of the home department store battle from the first film or the stormy setting of the second film. This movie’s final action set piece is underwhelming, forgettable, and brief.
Ultimately, The Equalizer 3 is the worst movie in the trilogy. This film mainly features McCall standing around as bad guys threaten civilians. The moments where McCall confronts the villains are fantastic but few and far between. It’s a movie that peaks at its opening sequence, never getting better than that. There are a few well-written moments of tension throughout the film, but it’s not enough to save it. While it’s not always a boring movie, it’s one that you’ll find yourself checking your watch more often than you would like. Like the other Equalizer movies, you won’t be in a rush to watch this one again after seeing it. Washington’s performance elevates the material, but not even he can keep a sinking ship afloat.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 4 equates to “Poor.” The negatives outweigh the positive aspects making it a struggle to get through.