The Movie Waffler New to VOD - THE EQUALIZER 3 | The Movie Waffler


Robert McCall goes to war with the Mafia.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Antoine Fuqua

Starring: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Sonia Ammar, Remo Girone

The Equalizer 3 poster

The spaghetti western wave of the 1960s and '70s saw scores of Italian filmmakers deliver their distinctively operatic and Catholic take on the tropes of that very American genre. With the third and best instalment of his vigilante franchise, Antoine Fuqua might be the first American director to make a reverse spaghetti western. Here we have an American giving us his spin on the sort of violent thrillers that came out of Italy's "Years of Lead" period of tumult in the '70s, along with more than a nod to the various Mafia-centred Italian TV shows that have arrived in the wake of Gomorrah. But coming full circle, the movie is essentially a western about a "good" man forced to take a stand to save the townsfolk he loves.

I put quotes around "good" because Denzel Washington's Robert McCall isn't sure himself if he falls into that category. The movie opens with the bloody aftermath of a massacre perpetrated by McCall on the Sicilian vineyard of a Mafioso with terrorist connections, and the level of violence suggest McCall may enjoy inflicting such horrors on his enemies. After wiping out all the adults on the winery, claiming he came to "take back something that was stolen from someone else," McCall is shot in the back by a young boy he refused to kill. Driving away, McCall collapses and is discovered by Gio (Eugenio Mastrandrea), a caribinieri officer who takes him to Enzo (Remo Girone), the local doctor in the small and ridiculously picturesque town of Altamonte. While tending to his wound, Enzo asks McCall if he's a good man. "I don't know," is his reply. The doc reasons that only a good man would admit such a doubt.

The Equalizer 3 review

As McCall recovers, hobbling on a stick around the cobbled streets of Altamonte, he instantly warms to the place. Old ladies give him freshly plucked lemons for his tea; the fishmonger refuses to accept payment from a friend of the town doctor; and the local barista (Gaia Scodellaro) makes googly eyes at this handsome American stranger.

But like any good western town, this one has a dark side. Local mobsters run a protection racket, emasculating small business owners and humiliating them in front of their children. Even Gio's uniform doesn't give him an exemption from the cruelty of these gits. At first McCall watches from afar, but as he falls for Altamonte, he realises he's going to have to take a stand to protect his new home.

The Equalizer 3 review

From the bloodshed of the opening scene it's clear Fuqua is aiming for something far grittier than the previous instalments of his reboot of the '80s TV show. There's a level of violence here that in Hollywood terms we've only witnessed in the last couple of Rambo movies, with McCall tearing throats to ribbons and in one ingenious piece of grand guignol, mowing down a mobster while his pistol is embedded in another of his victim's skulls. You can't help but surmise Fuqua's desire to set his third chapter in Italy was inspired by that nation's brand of over-the-top violent thrillers. He's clearly a fan of the western too (his remake of The Magnificent Seven is worth a watch), though he's clearly enjoying the subversion of having his hero clad in black here.

When we think of the stubbly, sweaty faces of the villains of spaghetti westerns, we're thinking of Italian character actors, and the casting director here has come up with some classic scuzzball faces. The villains here really are a horrible lot, which excuses the level of violence McCall ultimately inflicts upon them. That said, I'm not sure an Italian would commit the fashion crime of wearing double denim, as sported by some of the hoods here.

The Equalizer 3 review

The showy direction Fuqua opted for in the previous two instalments felt jarring when set against Washington's calm portrayal of an aging and gentlemanly killer. He appears to have matured as a director in the intervening years, and his studied approach here is more befitting a series centred on a man who can't move as quickly as his adversaries but is always two steps ahead (to use a football analogy, McCall is the Teddy Sheringham of action heroes).

By this point Washington has made this role his own, even if the movie never explains how this man of modest means can now travel the globe to enact his brand of justice. There's a thrilling scene in which McCall finally stands up to the young hoodlums, and for those of us over a certain age there's something primally satisfying about watching this old duffer tell a young punk to get off his lawn...or else. This scene also boasts one of the coolest verbal interactions in an action movie since John Milius stopped doctoring scripts. Washington delivers the line in a way only he can.

The Equalizer 3
 is on UK/ROI VOD now.

2023 movie reviews