Antoine Fuqua hasn’t made a horror movie yet, but with The Equalizer 3 completing this violent trilogy, he comes harrowingly close. These action films rival slashers with their inventive, gory deaths at the hands of a relentless killer who refuses to die. However, here, the killer is the hero instead of the villain, and he slaughters to save innocents from exploitation and murder. His victims aren’t virgins and co-eds; instead, Denzel Washington’s Robert McCall takes out Russian mobsters, American mercenaries, and the Italian mafia with everything from a corkscrew to their own guns.

The question Robert asks in each Equalizer film — “What do you see when you look at me?” — stabs at a debate, but this franchise has little moral ambiguity. The series positions Robert as a good man, and everyone else on screen falls just as definitively into the category of either good or evil, with no gray area in between. These movies provide little to mull over, other than placing bets on which everyday object Robert will turn into a deadly weapon next, like a wine bottle or a meat cleaver.

He merely does bad things to bad people, or more precisely, bad things to bad men. Over the course of three films, six hours, and countless deaths, Robert never metes out justice to a single female character, which feels more than a little regressive. Women exist here to be murder victims or damsels in distress with little agency, apparently incapable of the type of bad behavior Robert fights against in this man's world of bad and good men. Complaining about gender representation in a film that only really wants to be about brutal fight scenes would seem like a waste of mental energy. But Fuqua has always tried to make these movies something more than just an action franchise, and he has consistently failed.

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Yet, even now, three films into a morally simplistic franchise, Fuqua refuses to half-ass his approach, bringing his gritty style and attention to the visual details in every scene. Shots are thoughtfully constructed, and he offers a welcome sense of place, whether it was the Boston of the original film (and its showdown in a big box hardware store), the finale set in a coastal Massachusetts town in its sequel, or an Italian village in The Equalizer 3. Each setting is distinct, rather than existing just as an anonymous, featureless spot soon to become collateral damage in the fight between Robert McCall and whoever has earned his righteous anger this time around. We should probably be grateful for action movies that are made with this level of directorial craftsmanship, rather than what can happen when a random filmmaker simply captures all the punches and gunshots in frame and calls it a day. Yet it seems like a waste when that style is married with a script that feints at deeper meaning but then misses its target.