Skip to content

Review: Headed for the Amalfi coast, ‘The Equalizer 3’ packs attitude and plenty of red sauce

In "The Equalizer 3," where the blood is as dark as chianti and flows like wine, it splashes over stained glass and statues while seeping into cobblestone streets. With vigilante hero Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) leaving Boston for the old country and a taste of "la dolce vita," the third film in this trilogy has been used as an occasion for an Italian vacation by star Denzel Washington and director Antoine Fuqua. Before Robert can actually enjoy his retirement on the Amalfi coast, he must first take care of business, which entails getting rid of some bothersome mafiosi from a picturesque village.

It's obvious that Fuqua enjoys the visual drama that the locale and subgenre of Italian mafia films provide. His works are jam-packed with religious imagery, Baroque flourishes, cramped medieval passageways, and tons of pasta. However, he and director of photography Robert Richardson added their own distinctive touch to the photos by dilating and desaturating Positano's lovely seaside town's color palette.

Speaking about Positano, the well-known Instagram influencer destination disguises itself as Altomonte, a real village that is actually located between Sicily and Naples but considerably farther inland. Although Fuqua's decision to rename such a well-known section of the Italian coast for another town is puzzling, the plot of "The Equalizer 3," which is the series' most flimsy installment, is sort of par for the course.

We don't watch "Equalizer" films (based on the 1980s television series) for the plot, and the third entry prioritizes acting and visceral, emotional pleasures above everything else. Starting in the middle: At a Sicilian winery, Robert had already massacred a number of unnamed guys with butcher knives buried in brains. He will shortly shoot another man in the head with a pistol and then flee while being shot.

A blue blazer-clad woman is talking on the phone.
The actress Dakota Fanning in "The Equalizer 3." Advertisement (Stefano Montesi / Columbia Pictures)

A sympathetic doctor in Altomonte will remove the bullet from Robert's back, and as he recovers there, he will fall in love with the community's warm hospitality and tranquil way of life. He only needs to eliminate the vicious Camorra gang, which aims to scare the locals from staying in their homes so that they may build resorts and casinos.

Watching Washington do what he does best is what draws people to this movie, and he's having a blast doing it here. He's putting the hurt on swaggering psychos while subtly menacing bad characters, grinning widely, pontificating about good and evil and the necessity of doing evil in order to be good. Additionally, it marks Washington's 20-year reunion with his "Man on Fire" co-star Dakota Fanning. Fanning portrays Collins, a CIA agent who Fanning informs about the sale of "jihad drugs" through the winery. She appears in the city to track down the terrorists, but her true purpose is to have a calm conversation with Robert. The only thing that would be lost if Fanning's plot were fully removed from the movie would be the extratextual value of seeing these actors together once more.

Fuqua attempts operatic grandeur and pulp poetics in "The Equalizer 3," combining them with a bizarrely timed and ordered plot that is roughly as floppy as a spaghetti noodle (the script is once more written by franchise veteran Richard Wenk). On a purely impressionistic level, it's not unpleasant since Fuqua and Washington invite the audience along on their European vacation and ask us only to take pleasure in Robert McCall's infliction of terror and mayhem on extremely evil people. That is sometimes the best that can be done.

Katie Walsh is a film critic for the Tribune News Service.


Daniel Jack

For Daniel, journalism is a way of life. He lives and breathes art and anything even remotely related to it. Politics, Cinema, books, music, fashion are a part of his lifestyle.