'Equalizer 3' review: A slow-burn actioner that demands low attention

These over-indulgent scenes are pretty harmless and they do serve the story but they also take a large bite out of an already short runtime.
Denzel Washington in 'Equalizer 3'.
Denzel Washington in 'Equalizer 3'.

By now, we know what to expect from the Equalizer franchise, and Equalizer 3, the latest and third instalment seems to have turned these tempered expectations into a cosy spot where it hunkers down comfortably. Instead of a beginning, a middle, and an end, the film presents itself with a beginning that stretches past the middle of the film. Equalizer 3 has no high ambitions, and it wants to tell you a lighter chapter in the life of this man. The chapter doesn’t affect him on any deep emotional or psychological level, and he just wants to save a quaint little retirement spot that he found from some bad guys.

Consequently, what we are left with is a slow-burn action film where flashes of Denzel’s brilliance are intercepted by short bursts of violent action and painfully long stretches of connective tissue. These over-indulgent scenes are pretty harmless and they do serve the story but they also take a large bite out of an already short runtime. For example, in one particular scene, we see Denzel struggling to get down a flight of stairs after recovering from a bullet wound. It is done so to contrast him running up these same stairs later in the film to show that he has fully recovered. Even though it serves a purpose, the scenes are stretched out to an extent where it feels like Denzel’s character spends more time with these stairs than the other characters, essentially elevating the status of these stairs to that of a co-star. On top of that, these are not the only stairs in the film to get dedicated shots with Denzel Washington.

The plot intricacies that push Denzel into action are outdated excuses we have seen a million times before. All you need to know is that there is a Mafia and drugs are involved. Perhaps the biggest disappointment in the film could be the final reveal, which shows why Denzel’s character goes all the way to Sicily to wreak havoc on the Mafia. To director Antoine Fuqua’s credit, despite the lack of energy, and an inherent reason to exist, Equalizer 3 is not a bad watch. It is just a film that you would enjoy better if it is running in the background while you do your household chores.  

Despite all of its all-too-obvious shortcomings, the film still serves as a comforting watching experience for two reasons: Denzel Washington grips every scene he is in with such a hold that the contrast between his signature brilliance and the blandness of everything else in the film is rendered all the more conspicuous. The second redeeming thing about Equalizer 3 is its setting. Even when the film tries not to lather it all over your eyes, the arresting charm of Italy leaps out in every scene. We understand why Denzel’s character goes to inexorable lengths to save this quaint little seaside town.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a slow-burning action film, which is an oxymoron considering how action films are expected to have a frenetic pace and stakes that keep on building on top of each other. However, Equalizer 3 caters to a very rare and specific mood where you crave a film, which is technically an action-thriller but is also spliced with enough mellow moments to not have your pulse rate jumping constantly. The film is by no means a waste of time but only if you catch yourself in a mood to waste a bit of time.

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The New Indian Express