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Review: ‘The Equalizer 3’ does not tread new ground

Denzel+Washington+as+Robert+McCall+fights+his+way+through+a+universe+where+he+wins+all+the+time.+
Sony Pictures
Denzel Washington as Robert McCall fights his way through a universe where he wins all the time.

“The Equalizer 3,” directed by Antoine Fuqua, does not tread any new ground. It doesn’t surprise. There’s no moment where the audience is unsure. The movie isn’t boring —  there’s plenty of adrenaline and disgust, which keeps the viewers on the edge of their seats, but it’s not new. If that can be accepted, then it’s a serviceable use of two hours.

The film starts with the sequence most heavily shown in the trailer: an action scene turned puzzle, where the camera glides through a building in an Italian vineyard packed with dead bodies. Every death is unique, laid out in personalized tableaus. Cracked glass invites the audience to imagine the headshot and the slumping of the body that led it to be curled on the floor. A bloody decanter is shown before the reveal of the bludgeoned, nearly unidentifiable human head. Even the blood stains guide the viewer to reimagine the kills in their heads. 

It’s a good first scene and it’s a strong introduction to the intimidating Robert McCall, played with his usual skill, by Denzel Washington. It takes the freedom of allowing the audience to give themselves their ideal action scene. It’s detailed and subtle enough. The film uses one of its only moments of tension to completely solidify that Robert McCall is a terrifying, impossible force. Of course, it leaves a question that could pose a problem for investment in the rest of the movies: Why on Earth would anyone even try to fight this guy? Washington isn’t even doing much but he doesn’t have to. Robert McCall is a titan.

There are not many action scenes, and none of them are as large scale, but it is all delightfully brutal. It is not that exciting though. There is never any tension because there’s never any question of whether or not Washington is going to lose. There is also not much leading the viewer to really want these villains dead, save for the fact they are Mafia and this is an action movie. Yes, one feels bad because the people they hurt are so nice, but there are no other personal feelings. They are just targets for Washington’s bullets and barely worth any remark beyond that. The fight scenes are not bad by any means, but there is also nothing that is going to go viral on Twitter in a few years with the caption, “There was nothing like seeing this for the first time in the theater.”

Thankfully, action movies have to have other parts besides the action. The Equalizer 3 can at least boast that it has a more interesting, more sympathetic cast of characters than the average non-superhero action movie. 

The story is a staple of action: an American former operative finds himself in an exotic village where he finds inner peace among the working people, but a mean group of thugs threatens the peasant folk so the American is forced to come out of retirement to kill said thugs and bring back peace. It’s a simple story that requires real emotion from the audience toward the town to work. The cast of “The Equalizer 3” is small and most of them do not speak English; Denzel Washington’s character barely speaks Italian. Somehow, it works really well.

Remo Girone plays a kindly Italian doctor who takes care of Washington after he is injured and Eugenio Mastrandrea is the cop who saves Washington and desperately tries to protect his people from the abuses of the Mafia. There’s also the bright-eyed, in-over-her-head American agent who comes to investigate a tip left by Washington, played by Dakota Fanning. The actors all play their characters with a vitality that allows the audience to fully believe them as living beings and not the generic concept of “good people.” None of the performances are particularly interesting or earn any praise beyond “good job,” but all together they manage to consistently provide the audience with warm feelings. 

The movie balances its dual tones of grueling violence and communal love pretty well. Maybe it is helped by the fact every scene in the movie manages to go slightly over-functional by hitting the obligatory beats with an obvious level of skill.

For people who miss gore in action movies, this is a watch. For couples looking to combine the tastes of a partner who likes “Mamma Mia” and a partner who likes “Saw,” this is a watch. For people who are just incurably fond of Denzel Washington, this is probably a boring watch, but a watch nonetheless. For people looking for laughs or thrills, there are probably better movies to watch.

View Comments (8)
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Comments (8)

All The Ithacan Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

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  • E

    Eddie Hicks SNov 9, 2023 at 5:22 am

    All I want from a movie is being entertained, and I was. Reviewers knit pick things that I don’t care about. I agree there could have been subtitles, but I could kind of guess a lot of what was being said.

    Reply
  • L

    LynneOct 7, 2023 at 9:35 pm

    Why not have sub-titles?? Who thought it would be a great idea for have the cast to speak a foreign language. so disappointing.

    Reply
  • E

    EwOct 7, 2023 at 1:45 pm

    Agreed. They needed to have the Italian translated to read below. Stupid.

    Reply
    • A

      Annie DeeOct 15, 2023 at 12:29 am

      I agree absolutely 💯. How do they expect us to enjoy a movie with at least subtitles. The whole movie was Italian.

      Reply
      • S

        Steve GregoryJan 21, 2024 at 6:03 am

        Equalizer 1 had the Russians speaking in Russian but they also had subtitles for us English speakers so why not do the same in Equalizer 3 for goodness sakes ?

        couse

        Reply
  • D

    DOMINIC HOUSEOct 6, 2023 at 11:02 pm

    Why release a Washington movie in Italian? Difficult to follow when you don’t understand Italian. I considered it a waste of time and very disappointing.

    Reply
  • W

    W.AOct 5, 2023 at 9:14 pm

    WA. I watched that movie but I didn’t understand have the movie because in this movie they started speaking Italian. By the way I didn’t speak Italian I speak English that’s why I was disappointed.

    Reply
  • T

    TonyOct 4, 2023 at 12:44 pm

    I thought it was boring. Mostly because I don’t speak Italian. So I didn’t even want to watch it or waste my time.

    Reply