NEW YORK (AP) — Flexing a rare kind of star power, Denzel Washington led the thriller “The Equalizer” to a $35 million debut, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The Columbia Pictures release dominated the weekend box office, coming out ahead of some forecasts for the film. In it, Washington plays a former commando lured into a battle with the Russian mafia.

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The strong opening marks the third-best debut in Washington’s career, trailing only “Safe House” and “American Gangster.”

Last weekend’s top-performer, the young adult novel adaptation “The Maze Runner” slid to second with $17.5 million in its second week.

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The stop-motion animated release “The Boxtrolls” opened in third with $17.3 million. It’s the best opening yet for the Oregon-based animation studio, whose previous films are “Coraline” and “ParaNorman.”

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