Denzel Washington goes quietly psycho for perhaps the last time as assassin Robert McCall in The Equalizer 3. It’s been said by franchise director Antoine Fuqua that this will be the closing chapter in the series—but you never know.
McCall ends up in southern Italy, where he’s taking care of a little problem involving the pension of somebody back in his hometown of Boston. During a killing spree that’s not completely victorious, McCall gets shot in the back and takes an eventual detour into a small Italian city, where he aims to recover. Naturally, he falls in love with the place and sees himself as retired.
Not so fast; this is Italy, after all. Not only is there some sort of international drug ring that McCall infiltrated in the beginning; there is that pesky mafia, and they are harassing the people who have become his friends.
Will Robert just sit quietly and watch storefronts burn as he sips his tea? Or will he fly into vengeful killer mode and take on the entire mafia, all by his lonesome?
The answer is pretty obvious—as is most of what happens in The Equalizer 3. The predictability is not really a problem, because Washington saturates his performance with the kind of depth you don’t usually see in second sequels released in late-summer. The material is routine, but there is nothing routine about Washington’s constantly growing work in the character. He’s an acting marvel, and he’s been elevating material for more than four decades.
Dakota Fanning, his Man on Fire co-star from many years back, shows up as a CIA agent; it’s fun to see the two together again. With the new setting in Italy, no characters from the first two movies show up. The story is totally centered on McCall and his attempt, once again, to just hang out somewhere peaceful. That’s never going to happen.
The movie is surprisingly violent and dark, with a high gore factor. When McCall goes on a spree, he makes Freddy Krueger look like a nanny.
The movie ends on a note that feels very much like a conclusion, but look out: The franchise has some life in it yet, performing admirably at the box office in its first weekend. Maybe they’ll pull a John Wick and keep going past No. 3; worse things could happen.