Denzel Washington’s Ultra-Violent Revenge Thriller Just Got a Second Life on Netflix
The Equalizer 3 came and went in 2023, but it’s rightfully become one of the streamer’s top movies.
You’d be forgiven for missing Denzel Washington’s return to the big screen in 2023, as the third and supposedly final installment of the Equalizer franchise hit theaters amid a historic Hollywood shutdown. Save for the myriad posters of Washington smoldering in shadow as Robert McCall, The Equalizer 3 didn’t have much in the way of promotion. With both the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America on strike, Washington was unable to promote the film.
For what it’s worth, it probably didn’t need it, as Washington is a performer who comes with a built-in fanbase. Few are holding out for an appearance on Hot Ones or a BuzzFeed puppy interview before they buy their ticket (not that we would say no to either). Denzel-heads need only hear of a new starring vehicle, and they’ll turn up in modest droves. This is especially true for the Equalizer saga, the latest of which became the highest-grossing of the trilogy despite a dearth of promotion.
The Equalizer 3 now continues its hot streak on Netflix, the streaming platform that’s given so many blistering B-movies a much-needed second life. Washington reteamed with director Antoine Fuqua (this film marks their fifth collaboration) for this installment, and they took McCall’s virtuous vigilantism abroad.
The eponymous avenger finds himself somewhere along the Amalfi coast after a near-fatal run-in with some Sicilian mafiosos. He’s taken in by a kindly doctor (Remo Girone) in a tucked-away village where McCall nurses his wounds, observes its idyllic life, orders daily at the local café, and gets to know the locals.
From the beginning, it’s clear McCall is having something of a Mamma Mia! moment. He bonds with merchants and flirts with the cafe’s owner (Gaia Scodellaro). He even finds a way to coach a junior CIA agent (Dakota Fanning) through her first case, all without getting his hands dirty. For the first time in a long time, McCall might have finally found some peace. But his vacation is, of course, short-lived.
It doesn’t take very long for McCall to realize that this town, like so many others, is under the control of a vicious mafia cell. The Equalizer 3 wastes no time establishing this new threat, and its hero is just as eager to shed some more blood so his new friends can live without fear.
As with so many films of this ilk, the stakes aren’t necessarily high. We all know McCall is going to defeat these villains in spectacularly brutal fashion. We know his adversaries will try to put up a fight by threatening those closest to McCall. And while the fights often feel like live-action homages to Mortal Kombat, it’s much more exciting to watch McCall open up to the idea of a new family.
Despite the inherent brutality of its premise, the Equalizer films have always been deceptively kind-hearted. McCall only does what he does to right injustice and make life easier for the downtrodden. Equalizer 3 leans hard on sentimentality, introducing a handful of endearing Italians that anyone would raise hell to protect. It goes a long way in justifying the pain McCall inflicts, but it also leaves us wondering whether McCall can actually leave this life behind and choose peace for himself when the dust finally settles.
For all his inherent tenderness, McCall has always drifted in and out of people’s lives. Equalizer 3 introduces genuine connections, friction, and tension unlike any of its predecessors. The dynamics presented here still aren’t all that sophisticated, but they help make this final installment feel like a fitting end to McCall’s story. Sure, you’ve seen movies like this before, and you might not even remember this one after the credits roll. But Washington and Fuqua’s partnerships will always be entertaining and, like a good European vacation, they never overstay their welcome.