There are dad movies, and then there’s the Equalizer, a John Wick-adjacent franchise composed of 50 percent semi-retired assassin Denzel Washington inflicting bone-crunching violence on the criminals of the world, and 50 percent average Joe Denzel Washington performing community service with a smile. Neither of the first two movies in the series are all that great, but there’s something oddly soothing about watching Robert “the Equalizer” McCall put crime-fighting aside to paint over graffiti outside his apartment building or help his Home Depot coworker start a workout plan.
It’s a bummer, then, that in The Equalizer 3—purportedly the final time Denzel will be equalizing—there are so many scenes of McCall steadily, even monotonously, pursuing the Sicilian Mafia and, less monotonously, jamming pistols through one guy’s eye to shoot a second guy through the back of the first guy’s head. The familiar one-man-versus-the-mob story is punctuated by moments of outrageous gore, but Denzel seems to be sleepwalking through every scene that doesn’t involve gouging and/or stabbing. As he approaches 70 years of age (side note: what’s his skin care routine?), it seems like this should have been the movie to go all the way on him just being a good samaritan while traveling through southern Italy. But there’s too much investigating the local Mafia’s drug smuggling and not nearly enough time spent on local fishmonger Alberto, whose business is struggling! Is it wrong to wish there were 100 more minutes of small talk about how to tell good sea bass from bad? The guns-blazing pyrotechnics are the least unique part of a franchise that’s at its best when it feels like the action movie equivalent of Grown Ups 2: middle-aged celebrities just vibing together in different cities, having a pleasantly boring time, not a butterfly knife or sawn-off shotgun in sight. R, 109 min.