Barbie’s success is perhaps a herald of change in Hollywood after years of superhero dominance. However, one thing we can rely on is that audiences will always turn up to watch an older actor beat up some bad guys. Denzel Washington’s The Equalize is the 80s remake that became an unlikely franchise, cashing in on the same audiences that made Taken a cultural touchpoint.
The two-time Oscar winner returns for a third film as former marine and DIA officer Robert McCall. The movie finds him in a small town in Southern Italy, where he has finally found happiness away from his old life, surrounded by friendly locals who have accepted him as part of their community. Unfortunately, that tranquillity is disrupted when the mafia target the town. Once again, Robert must call upon his particular set of skills to save the day.
It’s a formula that works, and director Antoine Fuqua should be credited for creating something this entertaining three movies deep. The story is largely self-contained, and while there are references to the past it’s not something newcomers will have to study for. At its core, The Equalizer takes its cues from the Western genre, with Washington’s weary warrior making mincemeat of various disposable foes.
There is also something approaching pathos in this character’s continual search for peace, asking whether who he is can ever truly be in the past. It lacks the visceral excitement that made John Wick a phenomenon, but the filmmakers pack enough retribution into 100 minutes to make this final chapter worth exploring.
This is Washington’s first big budget movie since The Equaliser 2 in 2018 (he released several smaller dramas during the pandemic). Despite closing in on 70, he maintains an unparalleled presence, even if the script is not quite up to someone of his standing.
Movie fans of a certain age should prepare to feel very old, with Washington reuniting with his child co-star from 2004’s Man On Fire, Dakota Fanning (now 29!). Playing a government agent who receives information from McCall, she enjoys an excellent rapport with her co-star that is sadly lacking in any of the villains. Led by Andrea Scarduzio as Vincent, they are the kind of ruthless gangsters who seem to have very vague goals and ruthless tactics. It’s emotionally satisfying to see them get their comeuppance, but there isn’t much to distinguish them from any other action baddies.
Ending on a note that suggests the franchise is finally done, The Equalizer sticks the landing with a familiar but satisfying end. Whether or not a fourth film comes will depend on box office success – Fuqua has even discussed a prequel with a de-aged Washington. That might be pushing it, but then again this is a trilogy and a star that has made a fortune defying expectation.
• The Equalizer 3 is in cinemas from 1st September