In The Equalizer 3, Denzel Washington reteams with director Antoine Fuqua who helmed the last two films of The Equalizer franchise. The story picks up Robert McCall as he goes on a mission in Italy. After that mission goes awry, he ends up in a small Italian town that gets terrorized by the Italian Mafia.  

Most of the movie is an action drama about McCall’s assimilation into the neighborhood as the town begins to welcome him. There is a side plot with Dakota Fanning’s character who plays a CIA analyst who is tracking down nefarious figures involved in a larger drug smuggling plan. That story remains a subplot that barely pays off at the end. 

The highlight of The Equalizer 3 is Washington’s performance. The inner character work is about McCall coming to terms with the violence of his past and settling into a more peaceful life. As cliché as that story is – Shane (1953) has a similar plot – Washington makes that drama work well. 

Fitting with the genre expectations of an Equalizer movie, there are several scenes of violence that are shot with a cool stylization. Fuqua shoots violence beautifully – to the degree to which violence can be beautiful. Such lingering on the brutality while also backlighting the action delights in that violence a little bit more than is comfortable for my taste. 

The Equalizer 3 is a movie that believes that one can kill one’s way to peace and justice. After all the “bad guys” have been slaughtered, the audience is meant to believe that all is right and peaceful with the world, even though we all know that’s not how any of this works.  

What unambiguously works about The Equalizer 3 is Washington and the emotional core that he’s able to wring out of this character. Ultimately, the film rests on his able shoulders, and despite all the other elements that I’m more ambivalent about, ultimately Washington makes the film worth watching.