Denzel gives depth and humanity to vigilante role in ‘Equalizer 3’

Vigilante Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) methodically hunts down the bad guys.

By Wendell Gaa

Denzel Washington is my favorite actor of all time.  There can be no doubt that he is right up there along with Hollywood’s greatest living legends such as Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Tom Hanks.  His latest film “The Equalizer 3” only further justifies my conviction as once again this movie reveals the vast expanded range of Denzel’s amazing acting talent. 

The third and presumably final installment in this vigilante action series, “The Equalizer 3” sees Washington return to the role of retired U.S. Marine Robert McCall who goes on a personal mission to avenge and protect other people who are simply in need of help from the threat of bad guys.  McCall leaves his home base of Boston, Massachusetts to hunt down members of the Italian mafia in Sicily. 

He successfully eliminates several affiliates of a crime cartel, though in the process he is severely wounded.  Miraculously, he still finds the strength to hop on a ferry back to the Italian mainland without seeking medical attention and is able to drive through to the Amalfi Coast.  But eventually McCall is too weakened to drive on and is forced to pull over along a road where he nearly succumbs to his wounds.  Thankfully he is found and rescued by a good Samaritan named Gio Bonucci, a local law enforcement officer who takes him to Altamonte, a charming and scenic coastal town-village in southern Italy, where Bonucci brings him to a kindly village doctor named Enzo Arisio (portrayed by veteran Italian actor Remo Girone) who graciously provides shelter for McCall at his home as he rests and recuperates from his injuries.   

Dakota Fanning as the CIA officer Emma Collins assists.

McCall soon comes to admire and respect his host, and eventually comes to learn more about the residents of Altamonte whom he so grows to love and admire that he decides to seek a permanent home of peace and solace amongst the town folk.  However, the calm and quiet which he seems to have at last found in Altamonte is soon threatened by an invading horde of Mafia thugs known as the Camorra, who have a fearsome reputation all over Italy for intimidation, blackmail, torture and murder, and who plan to transform the town-village into their own base of illegal operations.  Unwilling to idly stand by and watch the townsmen suffer, McCall sees no other alternative but to employ his lethal stealth and combat skills to take out the Camorra by any means necessary.  He calls upon CIA officer Emma Collins, played by a now-adult Dakota Fanning and Denzel’s child co-star in the 2004 action-thriller “Man On Fire,” for assistance in cracking down on the Mafia organization. 

Assuming this is the final entry in the series, “The Equalizer 3” is a fitting conclusion to the arc of Robert McCall, whom I consider to be one of modern cinema’s greatest action heroes.  One could consider McCall to be a more subtle and calculating counterpart to another popular contemporary cinematic hero, John Wick.  Whereas Keanu Reeves’s character can seemingly spend one whole film in the “John Wick” series just shooting and fighting off bad guys minute-by-minute endlessly without breath, Denzel’s McCall takes a much more methodical approach to confronting the villains, wherein justice brought upon his enemies is literally executed in a much more gradual and brutal fashion.  This tactic in some ways makes Robert McCall an even more terrifying onscreen vigilante hero, thereby making you as the movie viewer feel very glad and relieved that he is fighting on the side of good!

Being the phenomenal and accomplished actor that he is, Denzel Washington truly makes Robert McCall his very own and continues to bring an additional level of depth and humanity to the character since brilliantly portraying him in the first two “Equalizer” films.  I remember watching a few episodes of the original “Equalizer” TV series back in the 1980s starring the late British actor Edward Woodward as the “OG” vigilante hero, and while his Robert McCall was no doubt magnificent and compelling, there is just something so mesmerizingly special which I find in Washington’s character portrayal.  It is also particularly heartwarming to see Denzel and Dakota onscreen together again since their first film collaboration nearly 20 years ago.   

I personally hope that Denzel would consider reprising this cinematic hero for at least another few films, of course that decision is his alone, but on the whole, I am very pleased with “The Equalizer 3” and the journey of this series.      

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