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‘The Equalizer 3’ is incredibly entertaining and satisfying

Cast: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Eugenio Mastrandrea, Andrea Scarduzio

Genre: Action/ Crime

Where to watch: In theaters

Dwight’s Rating: ***

Denzel Washington is back in “The Equalizer 3”. But that poses a big question: If Denzel is “The Equalizer”, then who is Queen Latifah?

That’s right! Since Washington starred in the first film version back in 2014 – based loosely on the eponymous CBS television drama from the 1980s – and following the sequel in 2018, we got a remake of the CBS television drama starring the popular rapper. That show premiered in 2021, and is expected to go into its fourth season as soon as the writers’ and actors’ strikes in Hollywood come to an end.

How is this possible? Washington’s Equalizer (just like Edward Woodward’s in the original series) is Robert McCall. Latifah’s Equalizer is Robyn McCall. So, are they related? Father and daughter? Cousins? Is this a family business?

Washington’s McCall isn’t quite a family man. But he certainly carries on like a comic book superhero – as in, a brutal killing machine! So, as exploring the “multiverse” is the in-thing with superhero flicks right now, perhaps what we’re witnessing is the two McCalls living in some sort of parallel universe, à la Spider-Man?

For now, it seems that mystery will likely remain unsolved, like most of those surrounding the benevolent mercenary Robert McCall.

For this third cinematic time around, McCall has given up his life as a government assassin and finds solace in serving justice on behalf of the oppressed. Now living in Southern Italy, he soon discovers his new friends are under the control of local crime bosses. As events turn deadly, McCall becomes their protector by taking on the mafia.

Looking back at my reviews for the previous films, it appears I was not exactly a fan of the ridiculous original – except for Washington, who was exceptional. In the “two-star” review, I noted: “While there have been many questionable movies with performances so great you’d still recommend them. … Washington’s performance, as stellar as it is, may not be enough for ‘The Equalizer’.”

I found the follow-up slightly more enjoyable, stating the sequel “tries much harder to equally match (Washington’s) performance”, largely succeeding in a “two-and-a-half star” effort.

For this third installment, it’s earned “three-stars”. (At this rate, by “The Equalizer 5”, the film might actually be Oscar-worthy!). But all three have had the same director, Antoine Fuqua – who directed Washington to an Oscar in “Training Day”, and the same writer, Richard Wenk.

Mobster-types have always figured prominently in this series. While they were largely Russian in the previous two, with the Italian setting here, the vibe is “The Equalizer” meets “The Godfather” meets “Under the Tuscan Sun”.

Yes, when the blood isn’t flowing, we get tourism travel video quality views of the most picturesque coastal Italian town imaginable. It is stunning!

Washington and Dakota Fanning, who plays a CIA agent, are reunited nearly 20 years after 2004’s “Man on Fire”. Their playful banter is the best part of the movie, followed by Washington and his usual cooler-than-cool portrayal of this character.

Otherwise, the storyline is extremely straightforward, and goes exactly the way you’d expect. Yet, it is incredibly entertaining and satisfying. But there are no surprises. However, people who like these movies are only looking to be surprised by how violently the characters are killed.

And as expected, “The Equalizer 3” is exceptionally violent! Like, cover-your-eyes violent. Shockingly, it’s probably less violent than the two previous outings, as the violence comes in spurts, as opposed to steady streams.

Never fear though, if witnessing human slaughter is your thing, there’s enough violence to satiate all but most voracious psychopaths or serial killers, at least through Christmas.

And, as usual, every imaginable apparatus known to mankind is used to obliterate the “bad guys”. And whether it’s Robert or Robyn doing the equalizing, that’s one thing you can count on with “The Equalizer”.

• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.