Monday, August 20, 2012
Death Wish 3 (1985)
Vigilante Paul Kersey returns to New York to look up an old friend only to find him a victim of a ruthless gang of psychos that have taken over the small neighborhood the friend lived in. The cops are virtually helpless, despite the guy in charge, Shriker (played by Ed Lauter) who seems to be a passive aggressive fan of Kersey's brand of justice. Put it this way, he throws the guy in jail after provoking a fight and then lets him go, saying he can kill as many bad guys as he wants to provided he works with the police.
Paul does just this as an immense body count is racked up, mainly in the last third of the movie when he finally has had enough. The gang itself is your usual mish-mash of guys with a few familiar faces amongst them as well as some notable innocent victims. Alex Winter of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure fame is one of the thugs and Marina Star Trek: The Next Generation Sirtis also has a small part.
The film is the usual hilariously reactionary crap the franchise doles out with the bad guys being ridiculously evil, the cops being ridiculously impotent and Kersey being a stoic badass. Performances are not really worth mentioning as Bronson sleepwalks through his part and Gavan O'Herlihy hams it up as lead bad guy Fraker.
The film is actually pretty dull until the last twenty minutes when all hell breaks loose. The finale is a nicely over the top protracted war between the gang and the other residents that manages to sens the body count to Rambo levels. It's quite fun to see Bronson running around with a huge machine gun and a hand cannon. That, plus the rocket launcher he uses to dispatch Fraker makes it one of the most memorable finales in an 80's action movie.
Having said all that, the film is still not all that good. The script is lousy, performances are bad (even an old pro like Martin Balsam can't be bothered to give a damn), the characters are mostly broad stereotypes and there is an overall sense of unpleasantness that mars the film. Maybe not to the level it gets to in the second one, but until the last twenty minutes it is a bit of a slog.
On an amusing note, for some reason, director Michael Winner decided to shoot the film in England and if you have ever been there, well... Let's just say that England and New York are very different locations. It works towards the unintentional humor of the film though, so it gets a pass from me.
Death Wish 3 is my second favorite of the series. I prefer the fourth film simply because it's more fun and I find a lot more to laugh at. Still, the third film is an essential film for lovers of bad action movies. Good soundtrack by Jimmy Page too.