Movie review: 'Equalizer 3' satisfies with violent justice

McCall (Denzel Washington, L) touches a nerve in Angelo (Daniele Perrone). Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures
1 of 5 | McCall (Denzel Washington, L) touches a nerve in Angelo (Daniele Perrone). Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- The Equalizer 3, in theaters Friday, is a satisfying entry in the series and in Denzel Washington's heroic oeuvre. Washington gets to be the smartest and toughest guy in every room.

Retired Marine and intelligence officer Robert McCall (Washington) steps in when he sees regular people taken advantage of by powerful people. Using his unique skills, he equalizes the balance of power to bring them justice.


Equalizer 3 begins with McCall at the end of a mission in Sicily. After taking out an entire vineyard full of gangsters, McCall is wounded.

When an Italian police officer, Gio (Eugenio Mastrandrea) brings him to a doctor, Enzo (Remo Girone), McCall plans to recover and disappear in Altomonte. But, McCall can't help notice gangsters threatening local business and homeowners, so once again he steps in.


McCall also tips off CIA Agent Collins (Dakota Fanning) about the vineyard. The CIA discovers drugs and cash the vineyard smuggled to fund terrorist operations, but also makes Collins interested in her mysterious tipster.

The Equalizer movies are not full of major stunts like Mission: Impossible or The Fast and the Furious. The violence is intimate, hand to hand and anticipated through long stretches of intimidation.

McCall is not Washington's only character who intimidates with his calm demeanor and condescending smile. Perhaps McCall is the most extreme to play off Washington's persona.

The ways in which McCall attempts to avoid extensive violence are compelling. Mobster brothers Vincent (Andrea Scarduzio) and Angelo (Daniele Perrone) are used to owning the streets of Altomonte, so anyone standing up to them throws them for a loop.

McCall knows the nerve to press on to disable a thug. That's one way to avoid a fight in public, but he's only postponing the inevitable confrontation.

When McCall can face the gangsters without risking innocent civilians, he dispatches them in excessively violent ways. It's been established throughout the movie that they definitely deserve it, and it can be cathartic to see an action movie embrace the R rating.


McCall is more like Marvel's The Punisher, whose methods were so excessive the reader was meant to question whether he was still a good guy. More than subduing the bad guys, McCall kills gangsters so graphically as to intimidate the next one who finds the body.

The Equalizer movies are ultimately more serious and dramatic than the light action romps of other franchises. Equalizer 3 allows McCall to show some humor in his charming interactions with Collins, and when he knows a gang of street thugs are no match for him.

For the third film in a series based on a TV show, when there is another TV iteration currently on the air, The Equalizer 3 provides enough new thrills to stand out. The "mysterious visitor corrects an injustice" trope continues to generate infinite stories, and this just happens to be the most recent and most violent version.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.


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