The Equalizer 3 (2023) Review

It’s the same old, same old in the third and final chapter of The Equalizer franchise, marking the first for Denzel Washington to have his own movie trilogy. Moving away from the Massachusetts locations seen in the first two movies to an international setting, we see Robert McCall (Washington) getting his hands dirty again.

Let’s just say it was a promising start, showcasing returning director Antoine Fuqua’s flair in his deliberate build-up tension leading to the franchise’s trademark of short but shockingly violent action set-piece. Robert is now in Italy just finishing his latest job, only to get subsequently injured and nearly died. But he’s lucky enough to be saved by Enzo (Remo Girone), a doctor who doesn’t care much about Robert’s background other than making sure he’s recovering from his injury.

The Equalizer 3 would soon fall back into the usual erratic and low-key storytelling approach similar to the first two movies. In other words, Richard Wenk’s screenplay filled in the gaps with subplots. Among them revolves around Robert and his potential love interest, Aminah (a lovely Gaia Scodellaro) as he frequents a local cafe. Robert loves the small-town neighbourhood as everyone is nice to each other.

But as he begins to finally find peace, bad things happen when Marco (Andrea Dodero), the younger brother of the Italian mafia boss, Vincent (Andrea Scarduzio) and his men terrorise the town demanding protection money. Robert doesn’t want to get involved at first but as things start to escalate, he can no longer bear with the sight of them harassing the townfolks.

Dakota Fanning in "The Equalizer 3" (2023)

For a movie that is billed as “the final chapter”, The Equalizer 3 doesn’t feel any different than what we have seen in the past two movies. Likewise, Fuqua botches the opportunity to make a solid genre piece out of a violent slow burn of a vigilante action thriller. The movie may have clocked a shorter 109-minute runtime compared to the two movies’ 2-hour-plus duration. But it hardly matters because it still feels lengthy with some of the padded-out moments that don’t contribute much to the main plot. For instance, Fuqua could have developed the romantic angle between Robert and Aminah, making her a potential liability to raise the stakes.

The Equalizer 3 also includes Dakota Fanning as a field agent Emma Collins. But her appearance is nothing more than nostalgia bait of seeing her reuniting with Denzel after previously working together in 2004’s Man on Fire. Again, Fuqua could have done something interesting here other than a mere “Oh, look! That’s Denzel and Dakota together again on-screen after 19 years” kind of vibe.

The same goes for the introduction of Vincent and his men. Never mind the fact they are playing Italian mafia because Fuqua merely depicted them as pawns waiting to get easily beaten by Robert. Why can’t Fuqua include an antagonist who at least has the same skill set as Robert? This, in turn, makes Robert’s subsequent quest of taking them down one at a time feel like a routine job. So routine that even Fuqua decided to end things hastily in a manner, where you have to see for yourself.

Promising start aside, The Equalizer 3 does have its moments. Robert Richardson, who regularly collaborated with Quentin Tarantino in movies like Kill Bill duology and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, served as the third movie’s cinematographer after Mauro Fiore and Oliver Wood. He has an eye for capturing the idyllic beauty of the Italy setting, notably the small town of Atrani. Then, there’s Denzel, who delivers a typically commanding performance as Robert McCall. The brief outbursts of action scenes are as brutal as ever (at one point, we see Robert doesn’t hesitate to shove the barrel of a gun right through the man’s eye).

And yet, it doesn’t do much to overcome most of the shortcomings in The Equalizer 3 — a missed opportunity of a trilogy-ending chapter that could have been better. At the time of writing, there has been news regarding the prequel of an origin story of Robert McCall. It sounds like potential but if Fuqua chooses to approach the same way as he did in his three Equalizer movies, that would be yet another round of disappointment.