The Equalizer 3 is set to be the end of the Denzel Washington action franchise. But at first glance it would be easy to think that the movie was supposed to be a different sort of sequel. Dakota Fanning co-stars in the film alongside Washington, just as she did in Man on Fire almost 20 years ago. Director Antoine Fuqua says that in some ways he sees the new film as a sort of sequel to both franchises.
Back in 2004, Denzel Washington starred in Man on Fire, a film about a former CIA agent with a difficult past who goes on a rampage after the young girl he was assigned to bodyguard is kidnapped. In The Equalizer 3 Washington again plays a former government agent, who is having difficulty coming to terms with the events of his past. Dakota Fanning, now much older, is part of the Equalizer 3 cast and will again appear as somebody Washington’s character will try to protect. The similarities between the two stories were not lost on director Antoine Fuqua who tells comicbook.com that while Man on Fire was never actively discussed on set, he was very aware of it the whole time. He explained…
We never talked about it collectively, but I've thought about it that way. 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].
The characters that Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning play in Equalizer 3 clearly aren’t quite close enough to their Man on Fire characters that it would work to imply they were somehow the same people. At the same time, based on the Equalizer 3 details we know, it does sound like they are close enough that fans of Man on Fire are going to get serious vibes from the new movie reminding them of that one.
Man on Fire is something of a cult classic. It wasn’t a massive box office hit or critical darling. What it was, was an absolutely brutal action movie fueled by rage. It came out four years prior to Taken creating an entire subgenre of angry dads murdering every bad guy in sight but absolutely belongs in that category. Washington and Fanning have remained close since making the film together, so reuniting certainly makes this a sequel for them.
There were the occasional rumblings of a Man on Fire 2 from time to time, despite the fact that the film’s ending made such things largely impossible. But for fans who would have loved to have seen that movie, it looks like Equalizer 3 will be the next best thing when it hits theaters on September 1.