equalizer 3 review denzel washington

The Equalizer 3 review | Don’t get mad, get three-qual

Denzel Washington returns as the good Samaritan who can kill men with a corkscrew. Here’s our The Equalizer 3 review.


The Equalizer series hasn’t always had the best luck when it comes to release schedules. The original, in which a universally beloved, middle-aged action star comes out of retirement to creatively murder members of a Russian organised crime ring, had the misfortune of coming out the same year as John Wick. Nine years later, the third instalment removes our hero from his home-life and sends him to Europe the same year John Wick: Chapter 4 did something remarkably similar.

Unlike the Wick movies, though, Denzel Washington’s Robert McCall has remained steadfastly traditional in his approach. Where the former has set up a sprawling and fantastical assassin-verse to play home to a series of increasingly spectacular stunts, The Equalizer has seemed content to play things pretty safe: a brilliantly charismatic leading man, a couple of nasty action sequences and a religious adherence to the principles of Karma as if the Old Testament encouraged stabbing people in the neck.

The Equalizer 3 doesn’t attempt anything too different, for better and for worse. It starts out quite interestingly – McCall has murdered his way through a Sicilian vineyard full of wrong ‘uns, before a surprise shot in the back indicates that he might not be quite as good at this avenging-angel malarky as he used to be.

As he’s nursed back to health by a kindly Italian doctor, Washington uses his much-needed recovery time to show off his many acting chops. With a tottering step and a fearful look into a street corner, McCall is clearly shaken by his brush with death. Sitting down in a local café for his regular cup of tea, he looks more like a lost old man than a celebrated murderous psychopath.

What starts as a revisionist Western, Shane-style last gasp for our hero slowly turns into a rather more conventional American action thriller. The Italian Mafia are there, there’s a Syrian terrorist cell, someone’s smuggling a particularly worrying volume of drugs and the CIA are involved for some reason.

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Unfortunately for the drug smugglers/mafiosi/terrorist group, Robert McCall has decided he rather likes the little Sicilian town that took him in. He’s got a new watch, a new hat and exactly the same attitude as the previous films. Namely, he’s a completely loveable old man who really, really brutally murders people who bother local business owners.

The brutal murders, never really on the subtle side, have upped their gory game this time around. Antoine Fuqua’s camera loves to linger on heavily mutilated, fly-attracting corpses, and McCall seems to relish finding as many ways to avoid killing people with conventional weapons as possible.

It’s a deathly serious (and therefore endearingly goofy) tone that only really works because Denzel makes for such a loveable lead. Fuqua has even made an effort to cut down on the series’ trademark ‘let me time on my watch how long it takes to kill you’ niche, which might have added a little more levity to distract from the gallons of fake blood washing the Sicilian streets.

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While the plot plods along without too many surprises, every now and then the film hints at something a little more interesting going on under the hood. Later in the film, once McCall is back in full avenger mode, a nice lady spots him in the café and gives him a lemon. “It’s nice with your tea,” she says with a smile. In the years since his last outing, America’s favourite CIA serial killer has gone from the middle-aged man giving out gifts to the old man accepting them.

So while the bloody paint-by-numbers plot never quite matches up with the Logan-esque premise, it’s hard to leave The Equalizer 3 disappointed. You have Denzel, a few creative murders and a nasty villain who gets his comeuppance. The franchise’s instalment is, according to Washington, its last, and while it falls slightly short of giving our hero the emotional send-off he deserves, the journey there provides plenty of splatter-y, vengeful fun.

The Equalizer 3 arrives in cinemas 30 August.

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