The Equalizer 3

I feel bad for the people who will go see The Equalizer 3 thinking it’s going to be an action movie. Denzel Washington shoots a guy in the ass during the first few minutes, after which an entire hour goes by without anything remotely action oriented. A couple small sequences of fighting or shooting take place during the second half. It doesn’t add up to much, though. The film is intended to be a wind-down for the Robert McCall character. Director Antoine Fuqua and his writing team wind him down too much, to the point where he practically stops.

McCall (Denzel Washington) is in Italy on a mission, during which he’s seriously wounded. A kindly old doctor takes him in and treats his injuries. During the healing process, McCall putters around the village, sips tea in a small café, and gets to know a few of the locals. This place isn’t so bad, he decides. Seems like a nice place to retire. Maybe he’ll stick around.

A good hour of the movie is spent establishing that idea. McCall also learns that the Camorra is using wine bottles to smuggle drugs into the region. Its leader is a ruthlessly violent thug whose underlings are just as willing to utilize gruesome strongarm tactics against anyone who gets in their way. He phones in a tip to American CIA operative Emma Collins (Dakota Fanning). She, in turn, seeks his occasional guidance in the case.

The gist of The Equalizer 3 is that Robert McCall has found where he wants to be, but he needs to protect his sanctuary from the mafia. The film spends an excess of time showing how he falls in love with the area. That leads to scene after scene of Washington hobbling through the streets and making small talk with supporting characters. A sufficient amount of emphasis is put on the character’s recuperation that the introduction of the crime angle almost sneaks up on you. The villains are not properly introduced, leaving them one-dimensional. I couldn’t even tell you the main bad guy’s name. (Yes, I could IMDb it, but you get the point.)

The overall premise isn’t too bad. How often do we get to see an action hero transition to a quieter phase of life? Washington is, as always, very good here, nicely conveying a weary McCall’s desire to hang up his guns. His scenes with Fanning are the best part of the movie. The reunion of the Man on Fire co-stars offers fun because the actors are clearly relishing the chance to work together again. A spark ignites between them. If only there were more McCall/Emma interactions.

Good performances and beautiful scenery nevertheless can’t save a lifeless story. You’d think the final confrontation between McCall and the head mobster would at least provide some thrills. Nope. McCall dispatches him in a way that’s ironic, yet not necessarily visually exciting. For that and other reasons, The Equalizer 3 is a lethargic conclusion to the series.

out of four

The Equalizer 3 is rated R for language and strong violence. The running time is 1 hour and 49 minutes.