The Equalizer 3

The Equalizer 3

Robert McCall finds himself at home in Southern Italy but he discovers his 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.

  • Released: 2023-08-30
  • Runtime: 109 minutes
  • Genre: Action, Crime, Thrillers
  • Stars: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Gaia Scodellaro, David Denman, Eugenio Mastrandrea, Remo Girone, Sonia Ammar, Daniele Perrone, Andrea Scarduzio, Andrea Dodero, Giovanni Scotti, Melissa Leo
  • Director: Antoine Fuqua
  • Pjtaylor-96-138044 - 2 July 2024
    The Italian job.
    This isn't really a comment on the film itself, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that this is the only 'Equalizer' movie not to be cut for a 15 certificate and it's arguably the most violent of the three. It really makes you wonder what the BBFC were thinking with the other two, although it may be that their guidelines have shifted over the years, and highlights the relative arbitrariness of their trims to the previous pictures.

    After a compellingly blood-soaked opening movement, 'The Equalizer 3 (2023)' takes a page out of its predecessors' books and slows down to an absolute crawl. Sticking Robert McCall in a sleepy Italian town that he soon starts to see as home, a lot of the movie is dedicated to the day-to-day life of its protagonist as he meets new people and takes a breather from his vigilantism. Of course, it isn't all that long before that vigilantism rears its head once again, but it's arguably too long for the feature's own good. The pacing is pretty shot, to be honest. It doesn't help that there's an entire storyline that's only tangentially related to the meat-and-potatoes plot which doesn't really do anything other than further slow down the already slow affair.

    Surprisingly, the story actually sees McCall reckon with the ethics and consequences of his tendency to dole out death in the name of his version of justice. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't do it very well. While it initially threatens to take a step back and actually make a comment on the violent methods of its hero, the feature eventually slips back into the borderline endorsement of - or, at the very least, total nonchalance towards - brutality that's practically a staple of the series at this point, as vital to its DNA as Denzel Washington's steely gaze. This is arguably worse than totally ignoring the moral ramifications of murder, as the movie ends up toying with the idea that its kill-happy hero may not be a good man before eventually settling on the theory that he is precisely 'because' he's so kill-happy - or, to be more accurate, because he's willing to kill to protect those he cares about. It essentially says that violence is necessary, a means to an end that can't be avoided and can often be heroic. Whereas it could be argued that this message is implicitly conveyed in the previous pictures because they aren't interested in engaging with the question in the first place (and is therefore accidental), the fact that this third outing makes a point of pondering the ethics of violence means that the filmmakers thought about it and decided that portraying it as fine in certain circumstances was the right move. It isn't presented as a necessary evil, either, because the heroic characters are usually given a clean break in its aftermath.

    None of this would be a major problem if the violence on display wasn't as outwardly sadistic as it is. While most of it is perpetrated as a broad form of defence, the individual acts are more often than not straight-up murders. Robert McCall is still a total psychopath, and he honestly seems like Jigsaw at times. I don't mean he has a penchant for gruesome traps (although he definitely does), but rather that he uses a loose moralisation system of his own design to dictate who he deems worthy of suffering. He also has a tendency to claim that he gives all his victims a chance. He seems like a guy looking for an excuse to kill, rather than someone reluctantly killing because he sees no other alternative. He actually seems to take some sort of pleasure from his barbarity, taking an extra moment to watch the life drain from his enemy's eyes or cruelly watch them scramble to escape a fate he knows they can't outrun.

    Of course, I'm not particularly bothered by violence. In the right context, it can be exciting and fun. The set-pieces in this are a bit odd because they aren't exactly pulse-pounding exercises in entertainment, more like short, sharp bursts of slasher-esque cruelty that often frame the protagonist as a horror movie villain while simultaneously championing his cause as the righteous one. The score highlights this effect, as the music is often weirdly creepy and seems to hint towards a moral ambiguity that the narrative ultimately lacks. Even though they aren't conventional, the action scenes are enjoyable in their own way. While they're far too infrequent for the film's good, they're probably the best parts of the affair and they often include creative kills that catch you somewhat off guard. The direction strikes a balance between clean framing and quick cutting to convey a sense of controlled chaos without disorienting the viewer, and it typically works really well. The cinematography is used to good effect, both in and out of the action, and is particularly nice during the nighttime sequences. The competence of the action is emblematic of the movie's general technical competence, something which outperforms its narrative capability fairly considerably.

    Although the undercurrent of sadism in the three 'Equalizer' pictures leaves a sour taste in the mouth, it wouldn't be a massive issue if the films were better overall. This latest entry in the series is better than the second but not as good as the first. Its set-pieces are cruel but effective, its central performance is fairly compelling, and its score is unexpectedly striking. The narrative is way too slow for its own good, though, and a lot of it just feels slightly silly. There are large stretches of the piece that are far less interesting than they ought to be. Its highlights are just about strong enough to tip the overall effort into the 'good' category, but it's not something I'd recommend rushing to see unless you're a massive fan of these films.
  • romanosdaniel - 21 May 2024
    Cinematic Perfection
    In order to appreciate this movie you need to be first and foremost a fan of the original series. But secondly you must understand that this is not just the conclusion to the trilogy.

    Whilst the first two movies were very action motivated, the action in this particular movie plays second fiddle to the feel of the thing.

    This movie is better than the entire godfather trilogy because it has the pathos of that movie series along with a character that is as much of a hero as it is possible to be in a non idealized world.

    The acting by Washington is top notch as always, but it is the cinematics of this movie and the production values that make it a masterpiece as well as the story and direction.

    If you have not been to that part of Italy, you may not quite appreciate just how moving the cinematics were. And at the same time there is this constant tension that is kept alive by the stop start nature of the movie. The movie is like a great river. Long relatively slow graceful curves, suddenly interrupted by slivers of perfectly executed action that would not be out of place in the very greatest movies of that genre. Yet the action is fleeting, and shifts again into poignant scenes.

    In short, this may be the first mainstream movie of this decade that I could call a proper work of art.