The Equalizer movie series is one of those franchises that no one seems to talk about but apparently makes enough money to justify sequels (and a TV series starring Queen Latifah, creating a strange loop given the movie is based on an old TV show itself). In some ways, The Equalizer feels like a gritter, less balletic John Wick – though John Wick is far superior. The always personable Denzel Washington plays a retired secret agent (with Liam Neeson style special skills) who helps people in need. The gimmick to these movies is, he sets his watch and basically predicts how many seconds it will take to dispatch his foes (though he doesn’t do it as much in this movie).
Each movie basically tells a standalone story, but there are some threads that will be easier to pick up if you’ve seen the other movies. It’ll also help you understand what Washington’s schtick is. Aside from that, you can pick up what’s going on pretty easily as this movie is basically your standard ‘good guy taken in by nice villagers takes out the bad guys who are harassing them.’ Eschewing the trend towards nuanced baddies, The Equalizer foes are basically mustache twirling jerks with no redeeming qualities you can’t wait to get their comeuppance.
The movie starts out fairly slow, drawing out his growing affection for the townspeople before he actually does anything (even the standard ‘pre-credits action sequence’ largely takes place off screen. The pacing is frustrating at first, especially since it isn’t entirely clear what Washington is doing there in the first place. However, the time spent with the supporting characters helps us identify them as things get worse for them later in the movie. Some of the questions are answered at the very end of the movie, but these answers don’t necessarily make much sense if you think too much about them.
If you enjoyed the first two movies, odds are you will like the third. While it’s billed as the last in the series, it doesn’t feel like a conclusion to a saga. It’s just a nice little revenge flick that gives an amazing actor a chance to kick some butt. With that said, if you are looking for something new or innovative, look elsewhere.
Here is the podcast version of my review:
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