Like many a burned-out employee, “The Equalizer” was in desperate need of a vacation.
And so Denzel Washington’s vigilante film series flies to Italy for its final chapter, The Equalizer 3, and soaks up the Amalfi Coast sunshine while the Amalfi Coast is drenched in the blood of implacable criminals.
Running time: 109 minutes. Rated R (strong gory violence and some speech). In cinemas from September 1st.
The first two films in this violent and bloody series, directed by Antoine Fuqua, were pathologically uncomfortable. Far too dark with a drab Boston setting and way more storyline than needed, the drudgery got on your nerves.
Washington was always good at it, of course, but the lift was too heavy even for the veteran Oscar winner.
In what is supposedly the last appearance of the series, one of their films does justice to the ever-growing talent of its leading actor. While Equalizer 3 doesn’t add anything new to the thriller genre, it wisely honors what already worked well.
Namely the mafia.
The Threequalizer begins with Robert McCall (Washington), a former CIA black ops agent with the ability to kill, at a vineyard in Sicily surrounded by mutilated corpses. The dead – McCall’s victims – are mobsters who used the vineyard as a cover to smuggle deadly synthetic amphetamines out of Syria.
Often frustratingly unbeatable, this time McCall is shot in the back and wakes up confused in an idyllic town near Naples to recuperate at a doctor’s home.
“Are you a good man or a bad man?” asks the doctor.
A dazed McCall replies, “I don’t know,” and passes out.
By making Washington’s badass bedridden and then limping, he gives the normally impenetrable McCall a certain vulnerability and a compelling story arc that the first two films lacked. For once, an “Equalizer” is more than a grueling walk in the park.
As the weeks go by, the hard-nosed man calls himself Roberto, begins to love his adopted country, befriends the locals and decides to stay there. He is determined to protect the tormented citizens from the mafia-like Camorra troops by any means necessary – aka merciless, cruel death.
Fuqua likes to reduce these color films almost to greyscale, but Italy still looks as beautiful as it is ominous. The roar of motorbikes outside, ubiquitous in Western Europe, reinforces our paranoia about what evil forces might be heading towards them.
As he settles in, McCall helps a CIA agent named Emma Collins (Dakota Fanning), who is suspicious and intrigued by the mysterious informant, track down the Sicilian drug dealers.
Any fix Fuqua makes this time is for the better. Surprisingly for a trilogy ending, “3” is the shortest of the “Equalizer” series, lasting 30 minutes less than the first. Belissimo.
Italian organized crime is superior to the deadly McCall – a Godzilla vs. Mothra from the seedy underbelly of the world. On their own, the villains are static and uninteresting, but their unique personalities don’t matter.
The reason for this franchise is Washington, who was 59 when he began the role nine years ago, and who conveys impressive pathos to a man we watch shoving a poker down a racquet’s throat. Sometimes he even elicits a hearty laugh from his killing sprees.
It’s nice to see The Equalizer, a series I’ve hated until now, coming out with a movie that lives up so much to its lousy predecessors.