Equalizer 2 producer Antoine Fuqua (Emancipation) takes a stab at directing for the third outing in the action-packed franchise. Working with a script from Richard Wenk (The Magnificent Seven), Fuqua delivers a solid revenge thriller with a bit of international espionage thrown in for good measure.
Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is shot while recovering some property and ends up in the small Sicilian town of Altamonte. While recuperating, he comes to love the place and the people. As a result, he takes exception to the Camorra wanting to terrorize the locals into leaving so the Mafia can use the city as a drug and money-laundering tourist trap. When McCall is told to butt out, he instead offers the criminals a choice of leaving the one town alone or facing him. Instead of accepting, they plan his death, never expecting McCall to act first.
Wenk's script is by the book, and yet it has a few surprises in store for the audience. The destination is predetermined, but the road to get there remains thrilling. Fuqua turns what could have been a mundane action picture into a heart-pounding thriller with good use of most of the cast. Audiences will be along for the ride, rooting for McCall and yet shocked at the vengeance he extracts. Many viewers are familiar with Washington's excellent portrayal of the character by now, but they will still be thrilled by his cold, calm calculation. The rest of the cast give good performances, following Washington's lead. The exception is Dakota Fanning, who doesn't seem interested in putting her heart into her portrayal of CIA agent Emma Collins. This may partly be because the inclusion of her story arc seems contrived.
The cinematography is beautiful and, when portraying Italy, absolutely breathtaking in long shots of the Mediterranean and the villages. Closer shots keep the audience on the edge of their seats with fast-moving camera shots, location-establishing scenery shots, and the occasional dark shadow for McCall to lurk in. The soundtrack mostly keeps the pace but does get overly loud at times, intruding on the story rather than enhancing it.
The Equalizer 3 doesn't blaze any new trails with its theme but is highly entertaining for fans of violent action thrillers. The script is solid, the acting is mostly good, and the Italian setting fits the bill perfectly. Even though audiences will find it predictable, the full sum of its parts provides a good equation.