Starring: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Eugenio Mastrandrea, David Denman, Gaia Scodellaro, Remo Girone, Andrea Scarduzio, Andrea Dodero
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Runtime: 109 mins. Reviewed in Sep 2023
Reviewer: Fr Peter Malone msc
Denzel Washington as The Equaliser confronts Mafia violence in Southern Italy.
Denzel Washington has shown versatility in his range of characters over his more than 40-year. In his 50s, while still making serious films (Fences, Macbeth), he set out on the action hero path (many commentators noting the parallel with the career of Liam Neeson who is two years older than Washington). And, with the debut 2013 action show, Washington became The Equaliser Robert McCall, with the second episode in 2018.
One of the criticisms of this kind of franchise is that it becomes formulaic. Critics often dismiss the formulaic – but audiences expecting it, like to see the variations and test how they work. Which is the case here.
However, this film has the advantage of being set in Italy and offering spectacular local scenery. The southern Italian town where the action is set (although there are some excursions to Naples and Rome) consists of sunny white buildings perched on an extraordinarily high crag, from the sea to a mountaintop. Life in this town is what we might expect from Italian films – a genial population, a sympathetic doctor, a nice parish priest, the police, shopkeepers. But we are in southern Italy, and, as to be expected, the Camorra – smug and conscienceless thugs – want to turn the picturesque town into a tourist and casino/gambling destination, using intimidating and violent tactics to overcome opposition.
However, ‘The Equaliser’ is there. A prologue introduces him, confronting drug dealers in Sicily, overcoming any opposition with technically expert violence, taking their money cache. But, it would seem the film is almost over at the beginning when he is unexpectedly shot in the back by a young boy. McCall contemplates dying, but gets the ferry and is picked up by the local police and treated by a sympathetic doctor. He recovers, finding the town a congenial and obvious place for a happy retirement.
The Camorra therefore is quite some complication given McCall’s background and his role as a hitman involved in international detection. He chooses to involve a young CIA agent (Fanning, who, as a child, starred with Washington in 2004 in Man of Fire) in combatting the Camorra.
Interestingly, McCall does not go in for spectacular shootouts. Rather, he is a quiet individual, with a talent with literally gripping opponents, picking the thugs of one by one, making a dramatic climax for the action.
Which means this time McCall behaves as genial psychopath. Is this the end of the franchise? Or will director Fuqua and Washington come up with another episode because this one has proven the most popular at the box office?
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