|to watch an ageing tourist take on the Neapolitan mafia as he seeks to restore a little bit of justice to the world.
|Denzel Washington, Andrea Dodero, Andrea Scarduzio, Dakota Fanning, Daniele Perrone, David Denman, Eugenio Mastrandrea, Gaia Scodellaro, Remo Girone, Zakaria Hamza
|30th August 2023
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Retired spy, DIY store assistant and Uber driver, Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is in Sicily, in his current role of a vigilante, taking it upon himself to restore justice for those unable to do it themselves; someone took something that wasn’t his and McCall is getting it back for him.
Things – as is the way in Hollywood – don’t quite go to plan, and he requires a bit of medical attention when he returns to the Italian mainland. By the time he’s well enough to leave the coastal town of Altamonte, he feels so at home that he doesn’t want to.
The local are treating him so well, he feels like he’s found a new family – but the longer he stays, the more he realises that one particular local is up to no good; mob boss Vincent (Andrea Scarduzio) and his underlings are plotting to take over the town and turn it into a lucrative tourist resort – and they’ll stop at nothing to get their way.
There’s only one thing that can stop them – and that’s the Equalizer.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Robert McCall is ruthless. And unbeatable. It’s perhaps surprising that his reputation has not made it to Italy, as if it had, the mafia would just retire and eat pizza on the beach – there’d be no point even trying to outdo him.
But they don’t know about him and merrily carry on with their protection rackets, drug smuggling and intimidation tactics to take control of the town, building by building.
When the mild-mannered tourist finally shows his true colours, the gangsters are left flailing – his ruthless efficiency leaves them with nowhere to hide. Vincent is better protected than King Charles but his guards are no match for the Equalizer – not least because they seem to spend all their time playing cards, rather than watching the gate and the security monitors.
This is the third film in the franchise, inspired by the 1980s TV series of the same name – but it’s perhaps the furthest from the original premise so far. Back then, Edward Woodward used to advertise his services in the local paper and set out to restore justice for those who couldn’t do it for themselves – but here, Robert McCall appears to be randomly selecting people to benefit from his unique skillset.
His OCD is just another weapon in his arsenal, as he takes down the gangsters one by one, as methodically as he cleans his ring and lays paper napkins across his table, in his disarmingly calm manner.
It has all the hallmarks of a revenge thriller, but McCall himself has no skin in the game. Rather than seeking to avenge anything that’s been done to him, he’s just seeking justice for people who don’t even know he’s doing it on their behalf. Sweet and charming as he is to the locals, McCall is in fact a blood-thirsty sadist, getting far too much pleasure from humiliating the Neapolitan mafia and inflicting violence on ill-informed gangsters, like it’s a sport. Oddly, perhaps, despite some of the most wince-inducing violence you’ll see on screen this year, the certificate has dropped from the 18 of its predecessors to a 15.
Dressed up as a hero, who just happens to be in the wrong place at the right time, he’s actually little more than a sadistic thrill-seeker who targets villains like they’re coconuts at a funfair. McCall is every bit as immoral in his approach as his victims, although, of course, they’ve at least got it coming. Conveniently, although he wasn’t there to take on the mafia, it turns out they were involved with the gang he was targeting, so he was able to kill two birds, with one stone – or two gangs, with one trip.
The story itself feels oddly inconsequential as it turns out that he’s helping just one random victim of a major theft – if he was really trying to restore justice, could he not have helped more victims, while he was at it? And some of the supporting characters might as well not be there – much of the plot involves calling in the CIA, but he ends up doing most of the work, while Dakota Fanning’s agent spends most of her trip to the Amalfi coast in hospital.
But putting aside McCall’s own motivation, the extreme violence and the unlikely outcome of an older man single-handedly taking on the mafia, Washington is effortlessly likeable and there’s plenty of gentle humour beneath the surface. And the southern Italian scenery is so gorgeous that it’s almost worth risking the violence of the mafia to enjoy a bit of late summer sun.