With the release of The Equalizer 3, Denzel Washington once again returns as an ex-government hitman with a thirst for revenge on evildoers everywhere. However, this characterization and the return of a co-star, Dakota Fanning, might just make the threequel the spiritual successor to an underrated brutal action flick that never got a sequel, let alone a trilogy.
You see, both stars previously appeared in 2004’s Man on Fire, a story about Washington’s John Creasy, an ex-CIA agent, who became the personal bodyguard to a wealthy couple’s kid in Mexico. The small child, played by Fanning, took on something of a surrogate daughter role for Washington only for her to later be kidnapped. What unfolds is a revenge epic where Washington blasts and tortures his way up the chain of command of the criminal organization that ordered the kidnapping, which Creasy believes resulted in the young girl’s death, with plenty of twists and turns along the way.
Seeing Fanning show up in The Equalizer 3 certainly makes it seem as if it could very well be some kind of fan-fiction sequel to Man on Fire, considering Washington’s Robert McCall character has a very similar backstory and MO to John Creasy. In fact, Fanning’s Lupita Ramos growing up to become an adult also makes sense since the twist ending in Man on Fire was that she was actually alive. Sure, Fanning’s character name is different in The Equalizer 3, since she’s called Emma Collins, as is Washington’s character. However, you could make some kind of explanation like they each had to go into hiding to escape the wrath of the kidnapping organization or something of that nature.
However, the only real hold-up is that Washington’s character dies at the end of Man on Fire. But then again you could just make the old retcon — “but did he?” — to get around that, too.
Regardless of whatever fan theories you might come up with, it’s neat to see the callback made in the casting that we can’t imagine is anything but intentional on the part of the filmmakers. The Equalizer franchise has been a greater success than Man on Fire, but the Antoine Fuqua-directed trilogy arguably owes a lot to Tony Scott’s movie in terms of cementing Washington early on as a gun-toting action hero years prior.
Frankly, Man on Fire deserves the recognition because it got a woefully underrated 39 percent critical score on Rotten Tomatoes despite it resonating well with fans, generating an 89 percent audience score. As a testament to this overlooked quality of the movie, it barely doubled its $60 million budget at the box office. While that doesn’t make it an outright failure, it can hardly be called a resounding success, either, once you consider marketing costs. However, the film’s cult classic status was cemented in DVD sales, which amassed $266,744 since its 2007 physical media release, more than making up for the shortfall in its theatrical run, according to The Numbers. The movie has a fond reputation to this day from fans of gritty, revenge-based action epics.
Check out The Equalizer 3 in theaters now.