The Equalizer 3 Review: New Setting, But Mostly More Of The Same

The Equalizer 3 is built to serve up more of what its predecessors have already delivered.

Denzel Washington in The Equalizer 3
(Image: © Sony)

At this point in the franchise, you pretty much know what you’re going to get with director Antoine Fuqua’s The Equalizer movies. Through the first two films, we’ve gotten to know Denzel Washington’s Robert McCall as a charming protagonist who likes good people and has a serious problem with bad ones – an attitude that more often than not leads him to execute grisly violence. Audiences clearly appreciate it, with the 2014 and 2018 installments both being blockbuster hits, and if you enjoyed those, the chances are high that you’ll enjoy The Equalizer 3, which is built to serve up more of what its predecessors have already delivered.

The Equalizer 3

Denzel Washington in The Equalizer 3

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Release Date: September 1, 2023
Directed By:
Antoine Fuqua
Written By: Richard Wenk
Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, David Denman, Eugenio Mastrandrea, Remo Girone, Gaia Scodellaro, Andrea Scarduzio, and Andrea Dodero
R for strong bloody violence and some language
109 minutes

This is not a movie with a great deal of ambition. It’s not constructed to significantly build on the existing continuity (in the sense of utilizing the canon or playing to loyal fans who are paying close attention to details), and it doesn’t try to do anything radical with its characters to purposefully change things up just because it’s a second sequel. Whether or not it’s purposeful, The Equalizer 3 is reflective of the series’ source material in that it has the vibe of an episodic/syndicated TV show – it just takes the hero and drops him into a new location surrounded by new faces and conflicts. It’s built to be understand by fans and newcomers alike, and it’s… fine.

Just like Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington, screenwriter Richard Wenk is back for The Equalizer 3, and this time around he starts the action with Robert McCall taking his goodwill activities to Sicily, Italy and finding himself in a showdown with a powerful crime organization. The ex-Marine/retired DIA officer succeeds in killing everyone and retrieving money for one of his “clients,” but he ends up being shot in the back and nearly dying. The only reason he doesn’t die is because he is found passed out on the side of the road in a car by Gio (Eugenio Mastrandrea), a police officer who takes him to a local doctor named Enzo (Remo Girone) for medical assistance.

As he recovers from his near-fatal injury, Robert quickly becomes enamored with the small Italian village where Enzo lives and ingratiates himself in the tight-knit community. He makes friends with the locals, and as a result, he can’t just sit back and do nothing when he recognizes that a pair of brothers with ties to the Sicilian Mafia (Andrea Scarduzio, Andrea Dodero) are threatening people and shaking them down for protection money. The protagonist recognizes that there is a bigger operation in play and calls in the help of the CIA – specifically one Agent Emma Collins (Dakota Fanning) – but he also takes personal responsibility to ensure that no more innocent people are hurt.

The Equalizer 3 doesn’t rewrite the series playbook, and that gets the results you’d expect.

While I typically try to revisit franchise films prior to the arrival of a new sequel, I wasn’t able to do that for The Equalizer 3 – but I think that only helped my appreciation for the film because it’s basically just another riff on all of the same basics as The Equalizer and The Equalizer 2. Denzel Washington’s all-powerful charisma is in full effect as Robert heals and gets acclimated to his new Italian home, projecting the character’s deep love for salt-of-the-earth, moral citizens, but then there is the other side of the coin. The villains aren’t just corrupt and awful, but cruel and vicious, making it all the more satisfying when Robert slips into badass mode and takes care of business.

It’s simple and effective (in that the movie genuinely makes you want to see Robert dish out his signature form of justice against the central group of wretched assholes in the plot), but it also can’t really be said to be particularly satisfying. Nice as it is to see Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning back together nearly 20 years after Tony Scott’s Man On Fire, the actors ultimately don’t get enough time together, and everything with the CIA feels tacked on and lacking stakes because it feels detached from the main story and all of the biggest moments center on the main character. The Equalizer 3 also functions with an escalation problem, as most of the movie sees Robert squaring off with one of the Sicilian mafia siblings and mostly saves his brother for the third act (which feels backwards and has a negative impact on emotional investment in the action).

Denzel Washington’s Robert McCall is so brutal at times that it actually takes away some entertainment value.

Said action is a mixed bag and appreciation of it will be determined by personal sensibilities – and once again it’s a case where if you liked it the previous two times, you’ll probably like it in this one. Antoine Fuqua once again leans hard into the freedom that comes with an R-rating, but it’s also missing that drop of cartoonish-ness that is so effectively pulled off in the John Wick movies – rarely allowing The Equalizer 3 to feel “fun” as a blockbuster. Between Denzel Washington’s gravitas, the black-and-white morality, and the brutal, visceral violence, it all feels very much about serious justice, and while that certainly has cinematic merit, the tone doesn’t allow the film to hit its maximum entertainment potential.

At the very least, The Equalizer 3 does feel like a conclusion for the series, and it satisfies in that respect.

The Equalizer 3 is uneven and at times a bit too simple for its own good, but one significant element it has in its corner is a satisfying denouement following its underwhelming climax. After a summer featuring multiple “Part 1s” and during a time in Hollywood when franchises just keep running until the money dries up, the Denzel Washington-led action film offers up a real ending for the main character’s arc and the timing feels right to do so. It’s a positive note that reflects well on the experience as a whole, but also doesn’t totally mask the blockbuster’s issues.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.