Directed By Antoine Fuqua
Starring – Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Eugenio Mastrandrea
The Plot – Since giving up his life as a government assassin, Robert McCall (Washington) has struggled to reconcile the horrific things he’s done in the past and finds a strange solace in serving justice on behalf of the oppressed. Finding himself surprisingly at home in Southern Italy, he discovers his new friends are under the control of local crime bosses. As events turn deadly, McCall knows what he has to do: become his friends’ protector by taking on the mafia.
Rated R for strong bloody violence and adult language
Fuqua’s decision to finish what he started with this gut-wrenching trilogy affords him the series most ruthlessly gritty installment to date, with an unrestrained emphasis on direction that values every inch of its coveted R-rating. For the supposed final chapter in this franchise, the imagery and action sequences feel their most visceral, with gruesome special effects work and bold sound designs that afford you accessibility and impact to every single one of Robert’s most devastating blows. Like our protagonist who moves in the shadows of his opposition, so too does the spontaneity of the action’s splurges, with razor crisp execution and claustrophobic depiction in camera work that never once sacrifices the elements of surprise that the production consistently wears over its violence-hungry audience. Besides Fuqua, Washington is also integral to the trilogy’s prominence, but this time with his single greatest portrayal of Robert that feels plucked directly from a psychological horror film. Denzel has always mastered the confidence and charisma of the character effortlessly, but here it’s the pleasure in the pain that is most articulated, generating the dark side of the character, which with it brought forth some hilarious reactions to his devastation, without downright sacrificing the consistency of the tone. Speaking of that dialogue, the script works overtime in conjuring these indulging interactions, which constantly make it a delight to experience the many differing dynamics that Robert shares with the movie’s many characters. Sometimes the dialogue uses twisted humor to gauge a response, but most of the time it’s the persistence of Robert and the pressure he’s putting on this mafia that makes him a delight to experience in real time, all with this mythical sense of movement that nearly feels paranormal for this installment. On top of this, the script also bravely pursues itself throughout a bit of a slowburn for the film’s first half, which normally would hinder the momentum of storytelling movements, but here affords us an even greater sense of community within Robert’s newfound homeland of Italy, which not only vividly fleshes out the importance of the stakes to his fight, but also utilizes his value in such a place, as a protector for the voiceless. Lastly, technical components bring a tangible influence to the presentation, easily making this the most ambitious production of a trilogy that unfortunately hasn’t made the most of those measures. The cinematography here from series newcomer Robert Richardson makes the most of the stony surroundings of the Italian barrios, with entrancing shadow-play and unique transitions that visually make this feel diverse from either of its predecessors, and likewise, music composer Marcelo Zarvos instills a surprisingly electronic influenced score that equally brings out the menacing relentlessness of Robert, as much as it does the daringly evocative essence of the violent imagery.
It’s easy to see how valuable Denzel Washington’s presence is to the prominence of this installment, as any time he’s away from focus of the narrative, the surrounding pieces stress the 104-minute run time into attempting anything that can match his talents, but in reality, sorely never does. This is most evident in Dakota Fanning’s subplot, where as a government officer, she’s tasked in overlooking and uncovering the mystique of Robert’s arrival. Despite the fact that we’ve seen this plot a hundred times in movies, the deeper problem is actually the inconsistency of the material, which uses her character a lot more than it needs to, yet leaves her with very little lasting impact on the integrity of the engagement. For my money, her place is warranted in the film, but I definitely would’ve cut down on a lot of her scenes, especially since she’s essentially just there to serve as the emphasis to the audience, for echoing the stakes and circumstances of the previous scene. Doing so would’ve worked better in the confines of a slow-burn, but beyond that left her influence feeling spontaneous as a watching eye over Robert at all times. Another major mistake that the script makes is easily with its antagonists, which aside from being every villain trope you’ve ever experienced, aren’t smart or imposing enough to ever get one up on Robert for leverage. They’re pretty much there to serve one purpose, and one purpose only, which for a third installment underwhelms to the same kind of conventionalism of its predecessors, but with half of even those films’ backstory of exposition. This is easily my biggest problem with the film because it never challenges Robert towards feeling overwhelmed or even outsmarted, which in turn leads to an underwhelmingly brief climax that goes the exact way that you would expect, with some good kills, but nothing of long-term dramatic rendering.
“The Equalizer 3” is a grander improvement on its mediocre predecessor, thanks in part to Fuqua’s unrelentingly brutal direction and Denzel’s unshakeable charms in between menacing attacks. Though the script doesn’t always make the most of its minutes inside of a 104-minute slow burn execution, primarily with a weak antagonist and over-indulgence of a corresponding subplot, this sequel is a fitting final bow for the character, cementing an importance to community that should stand as the movie’s biggest takeaway.
My Grade: 7/10 or B