The Action Mutant…
may not dine in hell, but he doesn’t dine at Olive Garden either!
Death Wish 3
review by Joe Burrows
They don’t make ‘em like him anymore. That’s what I keep telling myself today. When my dad was still walking around on this earth, he would wax sentimental about the man who solved problems with bullets…when nothing else would do. He would watch his films piously, whether from our local movie rental palace or through heavily edited television viewings. Of course, I was too young at the time to partake in the experience but I did not forget the hype as I grew older.
Needless to say, Charles Bronson contained more entertainment value in one fingernail than all of today’s CGI clap-trappery put together. Sure, he rarely spoke and he wasn’t the prototypical “All American Boy” but who else could convey steel will and intent amongst a chaotic landscape? I’d like to see your Josh Hartnett or Paul Walker do the same. Its crass exploitation crossed with an arcade shooting gallery! It’s Bronson being Bronson! It’s…DEATH WISH 3!
The Plot, as it was:
Paul Kersey (Bronson), back straight from vengeance-fueled L.A. rampage in Death Wish II (and, as we learn, a few places afterwards), comes back to New York to find an old friend dead in his apartment (he was beaten by members of the neighborhood gang terrorizing the streets). After being booked for murder by police, Kersey manages to strike a deal with the police chief Shriker (perennial action movie hard ass Ed Lauter). The deal: Kersey gets out of jail and goes back to the neighborhood to take out the street gang single-handed! See, the cops are getting murdered by the handfuls and an actual police presence in the area won’t work. This would usually be a daunting task for anyone but Shriker realizes who he’s talking to. Kersey starts methodically taking out the criminal element but it’s not until they murder the public defender/love interest (Deborah Raffin) that he decides to go out for a neighborhood stroll/target practice as his piece de resistance!
Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
There’s no question about it…as a film, DW 3 sucks. The acting is sub par, the villains are the epitome of stereotypical and the plot is merely an excuse for Bronson to go pop-pop-bam on some gangland heads. With all of that being said…who cares?!? This is definitely one of those “it’s so bad, it’s good” type films, a film so bad it is nothing short of sublime. Honestly, how can you not smile at Charlie Bronson (63 years young during filming!) blowing away gang members three times his junior with enough firepower to start five world wars? How can you not giggle at Bronson fixing home security booby traps for his neighbors that are straight out of the Home Alone playbook? What about the incredulously bloody finale, where Bronson empties bullets into his foes without breaking a sweat? Jesus, the movie has Chuck Cunningham and freakin’ Bill Preston (Gavin O’Herlihy as the gang leader Fraker and Alex Winter as gang member Hermosa) AND Oscar winner Martin Balsam! And how about the fact that the film’s generic 70s score is done by JIMMY FREAKIN’ PAGE?!? To paraphrase Roger Ebert’s review of Roadhouse, this film definitely rests on its own bizarre plane of reality. In short, Death Wish 3 is giddy, giggle inducing, old-fashioned, violent American fun.
Body Count/Violence: 72! See, for the first 70 minutes or so, Bronson methodically takes out gang members through luring them into criminal acts and shooting them dead (not to mention the booby traps, which consist of springboards stabbing people in the skull or dislodging teeth). However, the majority of the gang doesn’t truly get the message, as they consistently beat, stab, rape and rob their way around the neighborhood. The death of Kersey’s love interest (due to perhaps the slowest car crash/explosion in film history) sets the stage for the finale. During the course of 20 minutes, Bronson (with the assistance of Shriker and a Latino neighbor) sends about 60 gang-bangers to their maker in a sort of demented turkey shoot. We’re talking almost as bloody as the finale of Commando! Rarely has there been a sustained sequence of violence so unabashedly insane and carefree in its approach. And I haven’t even mentioned where the neighbors get in on the act. Oh wait, just did. Don’t think a broom can be used as a weapon? Think again, junior!
Sexuality/Nudity: A random black woman and the Latino neighbor’s wife (Marina Sirtis) are raped, with chests bared incredulously. The latter is particularly shameless, as the wife is walking home from grocery shopping and is revealed to not be wearing a bra. Though some women just view that as a comfort choice, this was done more likely so there would be less time in revealing the all important rack. Thankfully, the audience is spared the seemingly obligatory commencing of the relationship between Kersey and the public defender. Raffin’s cute and all but I’d rather not see Bronson in a bedtime wrap session in that stage of his life (even if he does look better at 63 than most people at any age).
Language/Dialogue: Some F words and stuff here and there but not overwhelming. Words get in the way of Bronson shooting people.
How bad was it?:
The majority of reviews have it as horrible to the core. Ebert gave it 0/****, which is an achievement worthy of any DVD case. Maltin gave it zero stars as well, but seriously…who gives a shit what Leonard Maltin thinks since whenever (the man’s hero in life is Mickey Mouse! How can you take anything he says seriously after learning that?)? A few online reviews (much like this one) see the movie for what it is: gleeful, time killing fun!
Did it make the studio’s day?:
Shockingly, DW 3 was the top film in America for two straight weekends. Released on 11/1/85, it beat out To Live and Die in L.A. and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge the first weekend and the Gene Hackman vehicle Target in its second. It went to 4th place in its third weekend and was taken out of theaters at the end of the month in 13th. However, at $16.1 million (a pretty fair gross in its day, against a budget of $9 million), it ranks as the 7th highest grossing film in Cannon Films’ short but storied history.
Entertainment value: *****/*****
Copyright 2007 The Action Mutant.