The Equalizer 3 Is Also An Exciting ‘Spiritual Sequel’ To Another Denzel Washington Film

The Equalizer 3 director explains how he sees the film as a "spiritual sequel" to Man on Fire.
The Equalizer - 3 Sony Pictures CinemaCon Presentation, The Colosseum at Caesarís Palace, Las Vegas, CA, USA - 24 Apr 2023

The Equalizer 3 is not just a sequel in The Equalizer film franchise, where Oscar-winner Denzel Washington re-teams with his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua. The film also re-teams Washington with his co-star from the 2004 action-thriller, Man on Fire, Dakota Fanning. Considering the similar thematic subject matter, it raises the question if this makes The Equalizer 3 a spiritual sequel of sorts to Man on Fire. Speaking to Brandon Davis with, it appears that looks to be the case.


In 2004’s Man on Fire, Washington starred as a jaded, former CIA operative, John W. Creasy, who becomes the bodyguard to an affluent family and their young daughter Lupita Ramos, portrayed by Dakota Fanning. When Lupita is kidnapped, and Creasy is framed for the crime, he goes on a vengeful path of destruction to punish those responsible. The late Tony Scott directed the feature.

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In The Equalizer franchise, Washington portrays Robert McCall, a highly skilled ex-DIA intelligence officer and United States Marine Corps. soldier who has now become a freelance helper who fights injustice and helps those who have been wronged. In The Equalizer 3, McCall relocates to Southern Italy, and now he’s helping some newfound friends who are being controlled by the local mafia. Now, McCall must become The Equalizer against injustice once again.

In the sequel, Fanning portrays Emma Collins. It appears she’s portraying a type of intelligence agent who is investigating McCall’s activities in Italy in the film. The actress now gets to share scenes once again with the actor who portrayed her compassionate protector in Man on Fire.

The Equalizer - 3 Denzel Washington (Finalized)
Denzel Washington stars as Robert McCall in Columbia Pictures THE EQUALIZER 3. Photo by: Stefano Montesi

Considering the similar thematic material, it’s hard to ignore the similar vibes to Man on Fire, especially with Washington back onscreen with Fanning once again. When asked about the subject, Fuqua said it was definitely on his mind while making the picture. The director stated, “We never talked about it collectively, but I’ve thought about it that way.” Fuqua also added:

“You know when Dakota said she was interested I thought ‘Ah yeah! This is Man on Fire but years later – and this is what he’s doing,’ you know? But I never said that to them because they’re just in the characters [of Equalizer 3] in those moments. But when you see them together, man – when I saw them on set – it was just like… [holds hands up] just smiling – I was just like ‘Yeah…’ [laughing].” 

– Transcript courtesy of
The Equalizer 3 - Denzel Washington (Finalized)
Robert McCall (DENZEL WASHINGTON) leaves the farm in Sicily with what he came for in Columbia Pictures THE EQUALIZER 3. Photo by: Stefano Montesi

Obviously, The Equalizer 3 isn’t genuinely a sequel to Man on Fire, but it’s still fun to see the comparable and similar themes and motifs. “Spiritual” sequels are also a fun thing to examine for cinema, and it’s fun to see the parallels between Washington’s takes on Robert McCall and John Creasy.

The original Man on Fire was a remake of the 1987 movie of the same name starring Scott Glenn, which was also based on a 1980 novel by Philips Nicholson under the penname of A.J. Quinnell. Interestingly enough, the original novel for Man on Fire had a setting of Italy, and the bad guys were Italian mobsters versus drug cartel dealers for the location of Mexico in the 2004 film.

Denzel Washington (Finalized)
Denzel Washington stars as Robert McCall in Columbia Pictures THE EQUALIZER 3. Photo by: Stefano Montesi

Ironically, as also pointed out, the premise of The Equalizer 3 actually hues closer to the original Nicholson novel. However, The Equalizer films come from the 1980s TV series of the same name starring Edward Woodward as Robert McCall. Meanwhile, Queen Latifah stars in the 2021 television reboot of the series, portraying Robyn McCall.

The Queen Latifah television reboot has actually already been renewed for a fourth season. However, the next season has been delayed due to the ongoing strikes. Production on the show won’t be able to be resumed until the strikes are resolved.

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Fuqua directs the film from a script by Richard Wenk. The Equalizer 3 arrives in theaters on September 1.

What do you think of Antoine Fuqua’s comments? Do you see the movie as a spiritual sequel to the classic action movie Man on Fire? Do you plan on seeing The Equalizer 3? What are some of your favorite spiritual sequels to classic films? Let us know your thoughts on the news on The Illuminerdi’s social media.


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Jeff Harris

Jeff Harris

Jeffrey is an entertainment journalist and podcast host based in Los Angeles. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Science in Radio, TV, & Film and a Bachelor of Arts in Theater. Jeffrey is also a Staff Writer at where he writes about movies, TV, games, wrestling, interviews talent, and covers special events such as Anime Expo, Comic-Con, and CinemaCon. When Jeffrey is not binging his favorite seasonal anime or show, he enjoys playing dodge ball, gaming, watching films, and enjoying UT football. You can find him on Twitter @Wheeljack83.