‘Equalizer 3’ hits its mark; ‘Ego’ serves up an excellent bio-doc of music giant Michael Gudinski; ‘Haunted Mansion’ is another Disney misfire

Don’t mess: Denzel Washington returns in ‘The Equalizer 3’.

THE EQUALIZER 3 *** (109 minutes) MA
Gosh, the mob is dumb. You’d have thought all the goombahs and wiseguys would have figured out by now that you don’t try and bully the good citizens of a scenic seaside Sicilian town until you check first whether Denzel is there.

By Denzel, of course, we mean A+ action star Denzel Washington who, among his other achievements (including two Oscars) has made the role of Robert McCall – originated by Edward Woodward in the 1985-9 TV series – his own.

In what we are sorrowfully told will be the final film in the series, McCall finds himself recuperating in said town after sustaining serious injuries while taking down a gang of drug dealers.

He likes the town, its people and all the stairs he needs to climb as he traverses the narrow canyonesque streets. It’s good for his recovery. He especially likes the cafe scene, favouring one place in particular.

It seems like a nice place to retire.

Only the local mafia boneheads start terrorizing the locals so they can set up their casinos and massage parlours.

This doesn’t sit well with Denzel … sorry … with McCall.

So into action he swings on a vengeful quest to teach these barbaric idiots that standing over innocent people and torching their businesses is a bad career move.

The violence is dialled up with director Antoine Fuqua, who did the other two Equalizer films and took Denzel to Best Actor Oscar glory with Training Day, showing a deepening love for seeping blood and close ups of wounds. This is a filmmaker who absolutely loves blood squibs.

He also knows how to rouse an audience with villains who are so nasty you can’t wait for them to be dispatched – and the more violent the takedown, the better.

Yet as solid an action film as Equalizer 3 is, the jaunt also has a spiritual side.

If you didn’t know Denzel was one of Hollywood’s most out-and-proud Christians you’ll know by the end of the movie.

Cast more as an avenging angel rather than as a Charles Bronson-style vigilante – though let’s never deny the debt the Equalizer franchise owes to Chuck Buchinsky – the film is prominently peppered with divine signage, including crucifixes, churches and a Holy Bible strategically positioned near Denzel’s bedside automatic.

This is meant to be Denzel’s final foray as The Equalizer. Please say it ain’t so. He should keep making these films, say, once every two years or so until he either drops or forgets how to shoot one bad guy through the eye of another bad guy.

Top moment, that. Look fast for it.

‘Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story’.

The bumpy, brilliant life of the most daring and visionary producer to ever grace the Australian music scene gets the detailed cross-section it warrants in the excellent, absorbing feature-length bio-documentary Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story.

Tracking the wild journey of the late, universally revered Mushroom Records founder, director Paul Goldman skilfully blends contemporary interviews with reels of golden archival footage, presenting a vivid chronicle of Gudinski’s career.

Among the highlights are his contribution to acts such as Skyhooks, Kylie Minogue, Ed Sheeran, Jimmy Barnes, Paul Kelly, Split Enz, The Police and Bruce Springsteen, all of whom are interviewed. Gudinski also gave great support to First Nations music.

But it’s not all peaches and sunshine as the film throws focus on some prominent lowlights, including Gudinski’s bloated sense of self and some dubious business decisions which are openly criticized.

All up, the film serves as a very fitting tribute to Gudinski, who died in March 2021.

It’s a very good film, the only caveat being that, like the splendid John Farnham documentary Finding the Voice, Ego is likely to enjoy a nice run in cinemas before promptly popping up in the stream.

So while the film is a very worthwhile excursion for diehard music fans with a particular taste for the history of the Oz pop scene, others might want to wait out its cinema season for online access.

Danny DeVito, the only funny thing in ‘Haunted Mansion’.

HAUNTED MANSION * (123 minutes) PG
For all the woke-inspired sins committed by the recent run of Disney misfires, none have been so grave as the cardinal sin of Haunted Mansion. Never mind gender politics or diversity agendas, the big naughty of this dire attempt at a spooky supernatural comedy is that it is simply dull.

Running at least half an hour longer than it needs to – Come on, Hollywood: tighten up! – we spend two hours in the gloom of a ghost-filled New Orleans residence as a group of locals try cleansing the place of its unwelcome spirits.

It’s a very drab two hours, folks, with Danny DeVito being the only cast member to marginally distinguish himself. Rosario Dawson is wasted, LaKeith Stanfield (so good in Judas and the Black Messiah) flails, Owen Wilson is Owen Wilson. Even Jamie Lee Curtis is reduced to playing a bodyless head.

As for being a comedy, it hardly qualifies. A rough estimate is that there’s 15, maybe 20 seconds of funny in the film. Not a pleasing ratio.

Another gripe: for a major studio film with a reported budget of $160 million, why are so many of the visual effects so lame? Director Justin Simien might have been better off going analog and having people running around covered in bedsheets with eye holes poked in them.

Sorry Disney. No sale. Again.