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.

Chuck says:

Whenever a film is not screened in advance for critics to review, that’s a sure sign the studio in question knows they have a stinker on their hands. In doing this, they are hoping they can lure an uninformed public to the theater for at least one good weekend at the box office before word gets out.  So, when Sony Pictures decided to take this approach with “The Equalizer 3,” I expected the worse.  Imagine my surprise, when this Denzel Washington actioner turned out to be the best in the series.

To be sure, there’s nothing groundbreaking about the film, no real surprises to be had and it certainly isn’t a feature that will be mentioned in the obituaries of any involved. That being said, it is a well-made popcorn movie – albeit a bit too violent – that provides Washington with the kind of role he excels in, his quiet, powerful charisma on full display which will likely please his legions of fans.

Robert McCall (Washington), surely one of the most vindictive of “Robin Hood” characters, is seen in Sicily as the film starts.  Why, we’re not sure, but he’s left a trail of carnage at the estate of an international drug dealer.  However, he doesn’t get away scot-free, seriously wounded in his effort to escape. Though he manages to leave the compound, he’s later found at the side of the road, bleeding out in his car. A kindly police officer takes him to a near-by village where the local physician saves his life and gets him on the mend.

During his recovery, McCall gets to know the locals and comes to love this out-of-the-way, oceanside town, the villagers themselves eventually taking him in as one of their own. However, a gang of mobsters has other plans, as they are intent on running key property owners out, so they might purchase their homes and eventually transform this place into a casino-based resort.  Their methods are heavy-handed to say the least (pushing an elderly man out of a third-story window while in his wheelchair is far from subtle), all of which gets McCall’s attention.

Reminiscent of George Clooney’s overlooked “The American,” screenwriter Richard Wenk, who penned the previous two installments in the franchise, seems to be more interested in doing a character study rather than just another by-the-numbers action movie. Unlike so many genre exercises, he and director Antoine Fuqua aren’t interested in including fist fights, car chases or pyrotechnics to pad the running time. A great many scenes are devoted to McCall recovering, exploring his new home and getting to know the people who live there. It’s obvious he’s taking stock of his life and the impact of his actions.

That’s not to say there’s no action. There is but it all emerges organically from the situation at hand. Nothing feels extraneous and most of these sequences are modest and believably executed.  Unlike the previous McCall adventures, Fuqua adopts a more stable style in filming these moments. Rapid editing and unnecessary camera moves are gone, the focus instead on presenting our hero’s special set of skills in a way the viewer can actually see and appreciate what’s taking place.  It’s a refreshing, old-school approach in this era of hyperactive, self-indulgent filmmaking.

Of course, the movie is not without its flaws.  There are moments in which the violence is too graphic and there are certainly no surprises where the story is concerned. Still, it’s good to see Washington in his element and if nothing else, “Equalizer 3” pays fan service with style and a bit of grace. At 68, he’s still got it and there’s some satisfaction in seeing him at play.

3 Stars

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