Denzel Washington's Robert McCall, the former DIA officer turned vigilante (by way of hardware store employee) who defends those in need by any means necessary, first graced our screens almost 10 years ago. A sequel followed in 2018, which took things up a notch and made the stakes higher, and, now, McCall is back for The Equalizer 3.
But why was it the right time for a third installment? "I was available, Denzel was available," franchise director Antoine Fuqua jokes when we sit down with him over Zoom. "People constantly asked me and him when we were going to do another one, so it was something the audience wanted," he adds, emphasizing that each story stands on its own. "We look at each script as something on its own, not necessarily as a sequel or a prequel."
Fuqua isn't surprised that audiences can't get enough of Washington as the reluctant action hero. "He's a great actor, and he's very relatable," he tells us. "As far as Robert McCall goes, he's a man of integrity, and he's doing it for the right reasons, you know, giving justice. That's important."
The movie sees Boston-based McCall tentatively start a life in Altomonte, a picturesque small town in southern Italy, while recovering from an injury after coming up against the Italian mafia. For Fuqua, it made sense to move the action overseas for the third movie. "He's an international guy, and I wanted people to see him as a bigger world character," he explains. "It's a perfect place, I think, for him to find a home, in a small town in Italy."
It's not a particularly restful European vacation for McCall, though. When he realizes the grip that the mob has on the townspeople, he's compelled to fight back on their behalf – but justice doesn't come as easily as it once did. "He's struggling with all of it and the mental toll it takes," Fuqua explains. "Violence and living that kind of life takes a toll, mentally and physically. But sometimes it's good because it slows you down and you meet some amazing people."
Working with McCall to take down the mob is Emma Collins, a CIA operative played by Dakota Fanning. Washington and Fanning worked together nearly 20 years ago, in 2004's Man on Fire, when Fanning was 10 years old. This is their first time on-screen together since. "It was really nice to see how much love they have for each other and respect," Fuqua recalls. "It was like a father-daughter thing to watch them and to see them across from each other, laughing and talking when the camera wasn't rolling."
The movie is Washington's swansong in the role, and it's a fitting conclusion for the character, according to Fuqua. "He found his purpose in the first one, he had to deal with his past in the second one, and he has to deal with himself in the third one, as far as morality, because he's doing it for the right reasons now."
The Equalizer 3 arrives in cinemas on August 30. For more viewing inspiration, check out our guide to the rest of the year's most exciting movie release dates.