dir: Antoine Fuqua
I am forced, against my will, to use the American spelling of this movie, though it goes against every fibre of my being.
I also applaud the makers for not going with “Equaliz3r” or “3quilzer” or even “Threequelizer” with some random 3s thrown in.
This is an enjoyable film if, like me, you could watch Denzel Washington pretty much do anything, sit at a table at a café, rearrange the napkins endlessly, drink tea, or watch him huffing and puffing up some steps. That’s the film, for me, watching a man approaching 70 climbing steep steps, and order tea. I don’t really need the other stuff so much.
Of course, that covers maybe 80 per cent of the film: Denzel just doing stuff, and coming to terms with his own mortality.
10 per cent is lectures on the physiology of hummingbirds. Fascinating stuff.
The other 10 per cent is watching Denzel brutally murder people with anything that comes to hand. There are killings so brutal in this that I hope I don’t have nightmares about it.
How do we reconcile these disparate energies within the one character, this strange monk-like man, so peaceful, so deadly? Well, does it really matter anyway?
I would like to watch a flick where Denzel doesn’t know everything and doesn’t have to kill a bunch of people, but I’m probably not the key demographic they’re after with these flicks. They want legions of dolts to watch Denzel kill a bunch of people in between pontificating about this that or the other. You know, tips on carpentry, or factoids about the fall of the Byzantine Empire.
As a set up, all we know is that the character Denzel plays is in Sicily because he got tired of killing Russian mobsters, or Americans, and now wants to kill Italians. And if it’s Italy, well, of course it’s going to be mafia goons, which make for the best type of goons. No-one is conflicted about mafia goons being mowed down in their hundreds.
Lest I make this sound like another John Wick style movie, rest assured it’s nothing like that. If anything this is a slow arsed movie that’s just content most of the time to have Denzel do not much of anything as he tries to recover from a gunshot wound he receives at the beginning of the movie.
Previously untouchable, he is rendered helpless, and has to rely on the kindness of strangers in order to survive, somewhere back on the mainland of Italy.
And he chose a beautiful town to recover in, truly beautiful. They call it Altamonte but it’s probably a composite of places along the Amalfi coast. Idyllic, postcard worthy, truly blessed to be here.
A friendly cop and a friendly doctor for some reason decide they’re going to help this African-American chap they don’t know, surrounded by a town of friendly Italians who all love Denzel, sorry, I meant Robert McCall. An Italian town filled with Italians who love and support an African-American chap?
I, uh, I’m not sure if this qualifies as an action flick or a fantasy movie. The Lord of the Rings is more plausible.
But maybe I’m not giving enough credit to the great nation of Italy and its open-minded, welcoming people.
I’m pretty sure there’s a scene where someone has a giant bronze head of Mussolini in their house, so, well, maybe I’m being too subtle.
So if this flick has its pleasures, they involve enjoying watching Denzel interact with people, and go about his general business in such a competent fashion. He’s so sure of himself, always.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say this flick has toned down the violence, but I will say that there seems to be less of it, or at least less of an abundance of it. There’s nothing like the legendary fight in the Home Depot in the first one, but there doesn’t need to be. There is a reprise of the kind of scene where McCall scrutinises an area and his opponents, figures out how to take all of them out within seconds, and then does it, but more often (as in twice), an antagonist strolls through a building seeing all the henchmen that McCall has already killed before they themselves are killed.
I guess it’s more efficient that way. I don’t really care. I’ve seen enough people die. I literally have no lack, no hunger for it any more.
There is a curious B plot that could easily have been entirely excised, but I guess anyone that wanted to see Dakota Fanning and Denzel reunite on screen twenty or so years after Man on Fire, well, here we go. They’re obviously not the same characters, but I guess we’re still happy that Denzel is looking out for her(?) There’s something about a fictional super drug and the Syrians and…something something, but none of that CIA stuff was that convincing.
It does set up the ending, which explains finally why McCall was in Italy in the first place. And, wow, it’s pretty silly? Seems a bit…strange to go to these lengths and take on apparently the entirety of the Naples mafia (ten or so guys) and kill them all to help someone out, but that’s McCall’s whole thing. The point established in the first flick is that he has OCD, a guilty conscience and can’t sleep, but that in helping others (by murdering a lot of people), he finds some peace.
So if you stub your toe, he’ll be there to kiss your owies. If you lose your binky, he’ll find it for you. And if someone has a problem that can be solved by butchering a hundred people, he’ll do it; efficiently, humbly, without breaking much of a sweat.
That’s what people want, and that’s what people want out of Denzel. We, the great unwashed masses, will happily watch Denzel do nothing, do something, pretend to kill people or walk around Italy because, well, why not? What better thing do you have to do at night?
No one cares about plausibility. Denzel is nearly 70. Keanu as John Wick is 60. We don’t care, we’re slavering dogs, just give us more of the same endlessly. Please?
6 times you should probably quit while you’re ahead, Fuqua, out of 10
“Nine seconds. That's what I'll give you to decide your fate. Nine seconds.” – generous with other people’s time and lives - The Equalizer 3