Denzel Washington’s Robert McCall is back for his final mission, but the movie is so fun you’ll hope they keep making more.

PLOT: After being badly injured, Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is nursed back to health by the friendly inhabitants of a town in Southern Italy. When he discovers the Sicilian Mafia is terrorizing them, he does what he does best…

REVIEW: I absolutely love the Equalizer movies. It seems no one is making straight-forward action thrillers nowadays other than Antoine Fuqua, who’s become the greatest master of the genre since the late Tony Scott. His movies are taut, efficient and packed with gruesome, R-rated action. They know precisely what they are, and if this is the final Equalizer film, it perfectly closes out the only big-screen trilogy of Denzel Washington’s career.

Robert McCall is a perfect character for Denzel. At seventy years old, Washington has the right mix of righteous anger, world-weariness and kindness to do the character justice. One thing I always loved about the franchise was how faithful it was to the concept of the original TV show, being that McCall was a man doing penance for a lifetime of violence by trying to help those in need. Granted, his help usually involves yet more violence, but McCall always gives his adversaries a chance to do the right thing and back off. And those he kills REALLY have it coming, making him a righteous avenger.

The Equalizer 3 is leaner than the other movies in the franchise in that this is a more focused mission than the ones we saw in the first two movies. It runs only about 100 minutes compared to the other two, which were over 2 hours each. The movie begins with McCall massacring a faction of the Mafia because they “took something that didn’t belong to them.” We don’t actually find out why he was in Sicily in the first place until the end of the movie, but given what we know about McCall from the other movies – namely that he’ll do whatever it takes to help someone in need – it puts a perfect bow on the franchise.

One of the best things about the series is how Washington can convey a lot about McCall’s backstory without spelling it out. He’s sophisticated and worldly, but he’s also a guy that genuinely likes people. He’s approachable and friendly, so it makes sense that he would quickly become part of the fabric of the Italian community he finds himself recovering in. Part of the joy of Fuqua’s film is watching McCall ingratiate himself, with the movie taking time to embellish the friendly rapport he builds with a local doctor (Remo Girone), the local constable (Eugenio Mastranda) and a friendly bistro owner (Gaia Scodellaro).

Meanwhile, the movie also offers us a Man on Fire reunion, with Dakota Fanning as a CIA analyst McCall plucks out of a menial role to give her a scoop on a prominent terror funding operation involving the Mafia. Fanning and Washington still have great chemistry, with her once again playing a pseudo-daughter figure. However, their relationship has an interesting balance now that she’s an adult with her own motivations.

Fuqua’s always done a skillful job balancing character beats and carnage in his Equalizer films, and he certainly doesn’t skimp on violence. Indeed, this is likely the most gruesome of the series to date, with McCall dispatching his opponents in ways that make him almost more of a slasher than an action hero. I feel like McCall could go up against Jason or Freddy Krueger at this point and come out on top as far as gore and kill counts go. Once again, Washington’s McCall goes for speed and efficiency, using whatever weapon he has handy. Notably, he only rarely uses a gun. If he shoots someone, usually it’s only after he’s used the barrel to impale someone through their ocular cavity, allowing him to use their skull as an improvised silencer (this actually happens in the movie). This is HARD-R material, and it’s nice to see Fuqua and Washington are still on board with making their movies as lean and mean as possible.

If I have any issues with The Equalizer 3, it’s that, once again, the movie’s villains are generic. You know that a random mafioso (Andrea Scarduzio’s Vincent) isn’t going to pose much of a threat to McCall, and it would have been great to see Denzel go up against another icon in a final battle royale. Alas, it was not to be. Even still, The Equalizer 3 delivers just as much of a bang as the other movies in the series, and it’s pretty kick-ass entertainment.

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