Daily Archives: May 13, 2019

Death Wish 3 (1985)

*. It took them three movies, but in this instalment of the franchise they hit terminal velocity. And I don’t mean that in any kind of kick-ass way. I mean the series flatlined on its way downhill into irrelevance.
*. No more debating the pros and cons of vigilante justice, or agonizing over taking another life. No, this time Paul Kersey is out for blood from the moment he steps off a bus in Brooklyn (the film was actually shot in London, but if you’ve seen one ghetto I guess you’ve seen them all). With every “creep” he blows away with his Wildey .475 Magnum hand cannon crowds cheer from the windows. Right on, man! One scene even has children running into the street to dance over the corpses of slain bad guys.
*. In case you might not get the point, we also have a couple of scenes where the chief of police (Ed Lauter) crushes cockroaches. Kersey will later make the analogy to exterminating creeps direct: “It’s like killing roaches. If you don’t kill them all then what’s the point?” This is a point of view that the police chief, who makes it clear he has no time for the rule of law, can sympathize with.
*. In his defence, Bronson himself seems to have been disappointed at what his character had become, and was only playing the role for a boatload of money.
*. The plan here was to just cut out anything that looked like it might turn into a story, keep the basic franchise formula intact, and have more things blowing up at the end, comic-book style. This results in some surreal effects. The opening scenes play out so abruptly it almost seems like we’re watching a trailer. Then, because Kersey has to have a love interest who is killed, a sexy young public defender falls for him after seeing him once in a hallway at the police station, driving into the ghetto so she can ask him out to dinner and jump into bed with him. Talk about love at first sight. And Bronson, by the way, was 32 years older than Deborah Raffin. So . . . yeah, weird.
*. Another formula element is rape, and for no reason whatsoever director Michael Winner (who had directed both Death Wish and Death Wish II, and who was described by actor Alex Winter as “a pathologically brutal, strange, sadistic, insecure, egotistical character”) includes two rape scenes in this film. I say “for no reason whatsoever” but I’m inclined to think Winter just liked shooting them. They serve no purpose in the film.
*. Just how stupid is this movie? Well, apparently they stopped using Roman numerals because they did a survey and found out that over half of Americans couldn’t understand them. The next movie would be numbered Death Wish 4 but then they’d revert to Roman numerals for Death Wish V. Go figure.

*. Some people enjoy the battle at the end. I found it repetitive and ridiculous (for example, Bronson holding the .30 cal machine gun while firing it). It’s basically all cars exploding into fireballs and people crashing through windows and falling off roofs and fire escapes. After you see this happening four or five times you don’t care any more.
*. The gang of creeps is unintentionally (I’m sure) comic, sporting silly face paint instead of tattoos. This is one of those elements that lead to people liking Death Wish 3 for being “so bad it’s good.” Maybe.
*. The Taken movies were roundly mocked for following the same script so many times, but they really had nothing on these Death Wish films. Because Raffin is killed off so abruptly (would she not agree to being raped?) they have to introduce a Hispanic man whose wife is raped and later dies in hospital so that the formula from the first two films can be replayed again.
*. I think if you’re interested in what sort of crap Cannon was putting out in the mid-80s this is as good a film to watch as any. And perhaps a little less painful than a Chuck Norris title. But aside from its historical value I don’t think there’s much to see here. Despite being even more cartoonish it still manages to be a nastier piece of work, with fewer redeeming features. Or really any redeeming features, come to think of it. OK, maybe the bad guy getting blown through a wall with a rocket launcher. But aside from that this is just a piece of crap whose only real virtue is its hurry to end.