There was a British TV show that aired back in the early 1990’s called ‘Challenge Anneka’ where the jump-suited Anneka Rice would arrive in a local town or village and help them out by the sheer force of her charitable personality alone and a helicopter. ‘The Equalizer 3’ (2023) is exactly the same as an episode of ‘Challenge Anneka’ except if Anneka Rice was a violent, psychopathic maniac who loved stabbing people in the face and rather than building a community centre near Catford her challenge was to brutally execute half the population of Italy. Oh, that and the fact that Denzel Washington doesn’t wear a yellow jump-suit.
This time we encounter the blood-letting do-gooder somewhere in Sicily killing everyone who doesn’t conform to the life-loving Italian stereotype. At first we’re not quite sure why he’s killing everyone in a country that isn’t his own but we presume it must be for a good cause so, in that respect, he’s the perfect embodiment of America itself.
And it’s all relatively watchable stuff, I guess, except the biggest problem is ‘The Equalizer 3’s an action film so profoundly generic it actually threatens its own existence by being such an amalgam of shallow and forgettable clichés that it actively undermines its own innate ontology (I watched this movie only this morning and I’m still not quite convinced that I did so with only my cinema ticket as proof the event actually occurred).
Indeed, the only genuine depth the film possesses is in its incredibly nuanced portrayal of Italian society, which can be best summed-up as the whole of Italy consisting of nothing but -
A/ Good Italians, and you can tell the good Italians because they’re unconditionally life-loving, listen to opera, are always saying ‘prego’ and ‘bene’, drive about on Vespas, and are all fishmongers.
B/ Bad Italians, and you can tell the bad Italians because they’re all in the Mafia, have tattoos, never say ‘prego’ or ‘bene’, sit on their chairs backwards (you can always tell if someone’s a baddie in a movie if they turn their chair round 180 degrees before sitting on it so kudos to the film for including this highly subtle and original piece of visual storytelling), drive about in black Ferraris and are mean to children.
It’s all pretty complex stuff, sociologically speaking, but the film does an admirable job of distilling this intricate societal matrix into a form a Labrador puppy could understand.
Not only that but ‘The Equalizer 3’ handles with sophisticated aplomb the feat of highlighting the fact that there are only TWO policemen in the whole of Italy (something I, personally, was utterly ignorant of), one of whom is totally useless whilst the other is wholly corrupt, as well as the fact the country doesn’t appear to possess any form of intelligence infrastructure, national security organisation or capacity in any way shape or form to deal with domestic organised crime so it’s just as well that Denzel Washington and the C.I.A. barge in to sort the nation out, possibly because the Italians are too busy going around saying ‘prego’ and ‘bene’ or driving about in black Ferraris all the time to effectively manage their own country.
Fortunately the film wisely knows it needs to dial back the clichés about the Republican peninsula for the climax and so finishes the movie with Italy celebrating winning a football match.
So that’s ‘The Equalizer 3’. Sure, Denzel Washington ultimately kills more people in cold blood than the Mafia has in the last thirty years but he’s American so it’s only morally astute for the C.I.A. to thank him and let him walk free. Besides, it’s not as if the Italians were actually going to do anything about the Cosa Nostra in their own country themselves so it’s a blessing that this murderous maniac arrives to kill them all on their behalf.