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Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for The Equalizer 3.
The Equalizer has become one of the most underrated action film franchises in recent years. Not only did it cement Denzel Washington as a bona fide action star (as well as one who prioritizes quality over quantity), but it also has showcased director Antoine Fuqua‘s skills as an action maestro. Washington and Fuqua crafted an intriguing protagonist with Robert McCall, a former Marine turned vigilante who utilizes his keen observational skills — as well as a fair amount of violence — to deliver justice. The Equalizer 3, which reunites Washington and Fuqua with screenwriter Richard Wenk, takes a different approach — and results in a character-driven piece.
The film opens with McCall delivering his standard brand of justice to Lorenzo Vitale (Bruno Bilotta), a seemingly innocent businessman whose vineyard harbors a dark secret. After he kills Vitale and his men, McCall is shot in the back by Vitale’s son. He is eventually taken in by local doctor Enzo (Remo Girone), who lives in the small town of Alamonte. While recuperating, McCall starts to connect with Alamonte’s citizens. But he eventually learns that the town is under the thumb of Vincent Quaranta (Andrea Scarduzio), a member of the Camorra (the Italian mafia). Cue McCall doing what he does best: delivering increasingly creative bouts of violence unto Vincent and his men.
How Does ‘The Equalizer 3’ End?
Vincent is revealed to have been selling a highly potent form of Fenethylline to terrorist cells, using Vitale’s vineyard as cover. He also sends his younger brother Marco (Andrea Dodero) to extort money out of Alamonte’s citizens, or outright run them out of their homes so that he can turn the little village into a series of casinos and hotels. McCall soon puts a stop to this, slaughtering Marco and his men after they threaten Alamonte’s chief of police Gio Bonucci (Eugenio Mastrandrea) for investigating their business. Incensed, Vincent attempts to terrorize the citizens of Alamonte into giving up McCall but is deterred by the citizens filming him, as well as Enzo shooting one of his thugs.
That night, McCall breaks into Vincent’s mansion, disposing of his guards in increasingly brutal ways. He finally corners Vincent and force-feeds him a lethal dose of Fenethylline pills. In what may be one of the most chilling sequences of the movie, McCall calmly informs Vincent that he has less than 20 minutes to live — setting his trademark stopwatch to start the countdown. Then he cuts Vincent free and calmly trails him to the middle of Alamonte’s streets, where the crime lord’s heart finally gives out — but not before a car rams into him, sending him flying. Given Fuqua’s love of Akira Kurosawa‘s films, particularly Seven Samurai, the idea of a criminal dying as a byproduct of his own wares is the type of poetic justice the legendary filmmaker would approve of.
How Does Dakota Fanning’s Character Fit into ‘The Equalizer 3’?
Throughout The Equalizer 3, McCall comes into contact with rookie CIA agent Emma Collins (Dakota Fanning). McCall contacts Collins and leaves an anonymous tip about Vitale’s vineyard, where she discovers the stockpile of Fenethylline pills — and the bodies McCall left in his wake. Eventually, Collins’ investigation leads to her being grievously wounded when Vincent’s men plant a bomb in her car. McCall visits her in the hospital and leaves a bag full of money, which contains the pension fund for a retired man he gave a Lyft ride to (presumably sometime during the events of The Equalizer 2). Collins returns the money to the retiree, and a scene toward the end reveals her staring at a picture of her parents.
Eagle-eyed viewers will remember who Collins’ parents are: Susan and Brian Plummer (Melissa Leo and Bill Pullman). They both appeared in The Equalizer, as McCall sought Susan’s help in gathering intel on Nicolai “Teddy” Itchenko (Martin Csokas), who was involved in a criminal organization that happened to involve McCall’s friend Alina (Chloe Grace Moretz). Susan was murdered by McCall’s former partner Dave York (Pedro Pascal) in The Equalizer 2, leading McCall to track down York and dispatch of him alongside the other members of his former special ops team. Collins being the daughter of the Plummers only heightens their impact on McCall, and sheds light on his decision to call her early in the film.
‘The Equalizer’ Trilogy Ends With McCall Finding Peace
Surprisingly, The Equalizer 3 doesn’t end with the click of a stopwatch or the sight of bloodshed. No, it closes off in a surprisingly peaceful way: McCall visits a local café that he’d been frequenting throughout the film, as the residents of Alamonte celebrate the end of a local soccer game. He gets up and starts mingling with the others, and a genuine smile cracks his face. He even joins in a round of cheers as confetti fills the air. For the first time, he seems to finally be at peace.
But originally, the film could have ended on a different note. Fuqua revealed during a Q&A session following an IMAX screening that the celebration took place earlier in the film, but that he decided to shuffle it around. “And I thought, ‘This is about a celebration of the people, of the place.’ That soccer game was earlier, and I called my editor, Conrad Buff, and I said, ‘What if we put that at the end, so he’s there with the people?’”, he said. The change works; it shows that Robert has found a place to call home in Alamonte, and he can finally put his violent past behind him. Fuqua and Washington have both signaled that The Equalizer 3 is the end of McCall’s story, with Fuqua highlighting how the trilogy served as an exploration of McCall’s character. If this is the end, it’s a rather fitting one for McCall, and it brings him full circle to where he was at the start of the trilogy.
The Equalizer 3 is now playing in theaters.