Who Is Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer?

By Douglas Helm | Published

Denzel Washington is returning as Robert McCall in The Equalizer 3 next week, so now is the perfect time to catch up on his character’s journey through the previous two films. Of course, if you don’t have time to watch both of those movies before Friday, we have you covered with a recap. We’ll break down who Washington’s character is and how he became the titular Equalizer.

The Equalizer Is A Former Marine

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In Denzel Washington’s first film in The Equalizer trilogy, he is a former U.S. Marine and retired Defense Intelligence Agency officer who is living a peaceful life as a hardware store employee in Boston. Of course, peace can’t last in these films, and a girl he befriended named Alina ends up in the ICU after being badly beaten. Robert finds out that Alina, who is a prostitute trafficked by the Russian mafia, was beaten by her pimp Slavi.

We see Denzel Washington’s character show off the skills learned from his past in The Equalizer when he confronts Slavi at a diner and promptly kills him and his men after he refuses to let Robert buy Alina’s freedom. Unfortunately for Robert, Slavi was part of a Russian crime syndicate that is led by Russian oligarch Vladimir Pushkin. This leads Pushkin to send an enforcer to investigate the attack on his men and for Robert to start exacting some vigilante justice in the meantime.

We learn a little bit about the past of Denzel Washington’s character later in the film, as it’s revealed that he was presumed dead in a bombing incident when he reaches out to a former DIA colleague. Throughout the film, Robert takes down corrupt cops and other criminals and eventually takes down Pushkin himself. At the end of the film, Alina thanks him for his help and the money that he left her that allowed her to start a new life, which inspires Robert to help more people and post online ads as The Equalizer.

Equalizer 2 Reveals His Tragic Past

Denzel Washington returns as Robert McCall in The Equalizer 2, which starts out with Robert as a Lyft driver who moonlights on the side in his new vigilante gig, added by his DIA colleague Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo, reprising her role from the first film). Amongst the odd jobs he takes include rescuing the kidnapped 9-year-old daughter of a bookstore owner, helping a Holocaust survivor recover a painting of his sister who was killed in the Nazi camps, and brutally beating men who assaulted a young woman named Amy. He also accepts an offer from a troubled teen to paint a mural in his courtyard after he comes home to a vandalized apartment.

However, the plot of Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer 2 really takes off when Robert goes to investigate the murder-suicide of an agency affiliate and his wife in Brussels. McCall is paired up with his former DIA partner, Dave York (Pedro Pascal). During the investigation, Susan Plummer is murdered, and Robert determines the murder-suicide to be a setup. Later, it is revealed that York had become a mercenary and that he was responsible for the killings in Brussels along with the murder of Susan.

The Equalizer 3 Takes Him To Italy

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Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer 2 ends with Robert taking out York in his men, reuniting the Holocaust survivor with his long-lost sister, and the young artist finishing the mural in his courtyard before going back to school for art. Of course, it seems likely that the peace he finds at the end of the film is destined to end soon enough. Washington will return in The Equalizer 3, alongside his Man on Fire co-star Dakota Fanning, which is set to hit theaters this coming Friday, September 1.