Blazing through Italy with guns blazing and bones crunching, EQUALIZER 3 packs quite a punch. Denzel Washington and Director Antoine Fuqua have been together for all three films and the violent rhythms they've settled into are an absolute thrill to watch in this final chapter of their trilogy.
As the film opens, they let you know immediately that the violence will be more graphic this time around.
Robert McCall (Washington) has stumbled onto a massive drug operation in the middle of a Sicilian winery. His face off with the cultured head of the organization could be the climax of most films, but it starts our first ten minutes off with a bang (and limbs torn asunder).
Like "Skyfall" did for OO7, the final moments of the opening sequence unexpectedly leave McCall badly wounded and unable to brand his usual style of action.
Under the care of a kind local doctor, Enzo (Remo Girone), McCall settles into the quiet life in a beautiful cliff side Italian town. It's a stunning, serene setting, soon shattered by the arrival of the local mafia. Their presence goes from the standard shakedown of weekly cash collections in those white envelopes, to something much more violent.
Robert Richardson (The Aviator, Kill Bill, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) is excellent behind the camera, shooting both the action and the town with his usual unmistakable style.
McCall does everything he can to maintain his silence and his quiet presence in the little town, growing fond of the people around him in a way that's clearly a new experience.
When the mafia decides they want the town for a casino and hotels they can operate, they begin to threaten McCall's new friends. Big mistake.
McCall brings a desk job, financial CIA operative Emma Collins into his circle, calling her with a tip around the winery operation that left him wounded. Emma (Dakota Fanning) arrives in Southern Italy with her counterpart Frank Conroy (David Denman from "Joy Ride") and begins to track McCall.
Fanning & Washington's scenes together are some of the best in the film as they build a respectful game of cat and mouse.
Our villains are a very heinous bunch of mafia hoodlums. They are lethal, without regard to age or status, destroying everything in their path. Andrea Scarduzio (The Crown) is excellent as Vincent, the mafia don pulling the strings on half the police force and government in southern Italy.
Of course, the film's center is Denzel Washington as McCall. From the opening moments to the final fade out, Washington is at his best. In his third outing as the mysterious fixer, his mannerisms are precise and every word of dialogue is chosen carefully. McCall is a tortured man and Denzel clearly loves playing him.
In some of Liam Neeson's recent "action" roles, I feel like I'm watching Roger Moore in his last Bond film, WAY too old to be believable.
There's not a hint of that here. Washington's recuperation up and down the endless stairs of the picturesque town is perfectly shot, adding believable weight to the final 45 minutes in which McCall unleashes his personal brand of fire and brimstone down upon on the mob.
There were at least two major surprises in the story I never saw coming, along with some nuanced visual references to "The Godfather" and "Scarface" that film buffs will enjoy.
Marcelo Zarvos' original music score is clever. Loud and intrusive alongside explosions and reminiscent of 80's Jerry Goldsmith scores in it's quieter moments, its a pleasant surprise.
I really enjoyed this final chapter. It's a violent, gory and action-packed throwback to an 80's action flick polished to a 2023 sheen. Denzel and Fuqua were clearly devoted to making sure McCall went out on top.
That he does.
EQUALIZER 3 gets an A.
See the R rated trailer below.