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Movies & TV

29th Aug 2023

Holy moly, The Equalizer 3 is brutally violent

Rory Cashin

Equalizer 3

The Denzel Washington sequel arrives in cinemas this week.

Upon leaving the press screening of The Equalizer 3, the very first thing I did was check the IFCO cert for the movie and I was shocked – SHOCKED! – that it was just certified 16s. I am in no way a prude when it comes to such things, but there is a scene in this sequel where retired U.S. Marine and former DIA officer Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) shoves a pistol through the eye socket of a henchman, then fires the gun while it is inside his head, shooting a second henchman with what we can only assume equal parts bullets and skull fragments.

To be fair, the IFCO certificate does give a pretty decent heads up on the level of violence that viewers can expect – “Strong bloody violence with graphic injury detail in sporadic concentrated sections of the film. Depictions of torture and death.” – but it is still somewhat shocking when those concentrated sections of violence do arrive.

It is clear that Washington and series director Antoine Fuqua (who also directed Washington to an Oscar in Training Day) took note of the muted response to the first sequel and decided to go all out on this one, leaning fully into the Angel Of Death subtext that these movies have filtered enjoyment through so far. Bad guys meet bad ends, audience applauses.

Except here, there are unique hiccups. The first being the bad guys here are cartoonishly evil. Yes, that makes it all the easier for the viewers to whoop and holler when they get their comeuppance, but as far as realism goes, they are one shade away from moustache twirling. The second hiccup is the main plot itself, which… oh boy… how to synopsis this behemoth…

The Equalizer 3 plot is way more confusing than it needs to be

So the movie opens with McCall having massacred his way through a wine vineyard, for reasons that won’t really be revealed for a loooooong time into the movie. He gets shot in the back on his way out of this mass crime scene, but is nursed back to help by pretty much an entire southern Italian village. In a plot point that seems to have been borrowed from The Last Samurai, McCall then goes through a “I could learn a lot from these peaceful people” character arc, deciding this gorgeous, seafront Italian fishing village should be his new home.

However, it turns out that vineyard was actually a front from Syrian drug smugglers (!?) who were using the money for their terrorist attacks (!?!?), which gets the attention of CIA agent Emma Collins (Dakota Fanning, giving us a mini Man On Fire reunion). Simultaneously, it turns out that Italian mafia have plans to turn this fishing village into a new tourist destination, and want to burn the locals out of their homes, which McCall won’t stand for.

And so we get a lot of scenes of Washington smiling wistfully at these lovely locals, occasionally interspersed with Washington grimacing dourly at the mafia bad guys. Nobody else in the movie really has anything to do, but the 68-year-old actor is clearly having a blast in what should be his final hooray in the role.

Aside from the notable violence levels, there is nothing new here you haven’t seen a million times before, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The film even has the good graces to be a chunk under two hours long, knowing not to overstay its bloody welcome. To that end, McCall deserves this happy ending, even if the Italian population had to take a hit in the process.

The Equalizer 3 arrives in Irish cinemas on Wednesday 30 August.

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