(Photo courtesy of CNN) “‘The Equalizer 3’ is a disappointing third installment to the series.”
“The Equalizer” franchise follows a simple premise: watch Denzel Washington brutally kill an array of mercenaries. This simple concept has carried Washington, as well as director Antoine Furqua, across three films now. While seeing such an iconic actor take upon his own action franchise was a once-promising endeavor, the third “Equalizer” film fails to excite far too frequently for it to be worth a watch.
“The Equalizer 3” follows Washington’s character, Robert McCall, recovering from an injury after attempting to recoup money stolen in a cyber-heist by a group of gangsters. He is found by an Italian police officer, who brings him to his small town along the Italian coast to recover. Much of the film follows McCall recovering from this injury and befriending the local population, while also working to eliminate the Camorra’s harassment of the village.
For an action film, “The Equalizer 3” is often excruciatingly slow and meditative. After an engaging opening action sequence, the movie screeches to a halt as McCall is forced to recover, and hardly shows a flicker of energy for the following hour. While action movies that focus more on plot than guts can be incredibly rewarding, “The Equalizer 3” rarely has a cohesive plot in this slower chunk, instead focusing on creating a general feeling throughout this time.
The Camorra is an uninteresting and often faceless antagonist, with the main villain being revealed far too late in the film. Local villagers blend together and are given little personality beyond their names and occupations. A CIA subplot begins interestingly and features a dedicated performance from Dakota Fanning, but meanders and sputters out so dramatically that it could have been entirely cut.
Even when action sequences do finally come later in the film, they often end just as quickly as they begin. McCall is an unbeatable force of nature, and the only thing that ever slows a fight scene is him wanting to drag it out. A lack of dramatic tension in these scenes removes any weight they could have. There are no stakes, as there is rarely a second to worry about McCall’s safety.
Washington gives a solid performance as this stoic vigilante, but a performance that often veers into territory perhaps more fit for a slasher than an action blockbuster. The quick and brutal action sequences lean closer to this sort of story than an action one, as does his stoic, cold exterior delivery. There is one particularly strong scene around two-thirds of the way through the film upon his first encounter with the primary antagonist, but the glimmer of hope this scene gives quickly vanishes once again.
A lack of character development leaves Washington with less material than he should have to work with as well. There is one glimpse of a potentially interesting character arc at the beginning, but it is instantly forgotten and never spoken about again. Plot points are often picked up and discarded at random throughout the movie, leading to a rather erratic viewing experience.
Action movies can certainly thrive by focusing more on plot and characterization than on action, as well as vice versa. “The Equalizer 3” seems to swing for the former, but instead fails to properly focus on any of these basic elements. While Washington does his best to redeem the material and director Furqua paints a visually appealing backdrop, there is simply nothing at the core of “The Equalizer 3”. A lack of interesting characters, captivating plotlines, extended engaging action sequences or meaningful messages leads to one of the most hollow and bland action movie experiences of the decade so far.
Overall Grade: D-