May 12, 2014

Movie Review: Death Wish 3

In 1974 director Michael Winner and author Brian Garfield introduced us to the gritty world of architect Paul Kersey in Death Wish. His wife is raped and murdered and because the police are unable to do anything, he takes it upon himself to take to the streets for some old fashioned vengeance. It is a great example of the revenge film that holds up to this day. In 1982, Kersey took to the left coast where his daughter is raped and murdered forcing Kersey to the streets once again to have his is revenge. Then 1985 happened and a movie that is so gloriously over the top was unleashed on an unsuspecting public.

Of course, I am referring to Death Wish 3. This is an action movie that takes things to the extreme. It is much lighter than the first two outings and tales everything right over the top. It is once again, directed by Michael Winner and stars Charles Bronson as the architect turned vigilante. It is also a sequel that abandons the Roman numeral system used for the second film, as it seems that they did a study and discovered hat too many people did not know how to read them.

While the first film is easily the best film of the franchise, there is something about this one that draws me in and makes me love it. It is wild and nonsensical over amplification of the vigilante movie that just screams "80's!". In rather short order, the movie won my heart and holds my affection. There is something about the direction they took that just dazzles the eye and confounds the mind. Paul Kersey has gone from being a vigilante in the shadows, to a shoot first, ask questions later, trap maker who will not hesitate to plant some lead in your gut. It also solidifies the idea that it is not a good idea to be the wife or the girlfriend in a Bronson film.

This movie opens simply enough with Kersey taking a bus trip to New York, a city he has not been in since the events of ten years prior. Meanwhile, we watch a man have his home invaded by a bunch of thugs who then beat him to death. It turns out Kersey is in town to see him, it turns out the two are old friends. It is just a shame he did not live in a better area. The projects where his friend lives looks like a post-apocalyptic war zone, with the streets ruled by vicious gangs.

Kersey gets picked up at the apartment, accused of the man's murder. He doesn't say much, even being completely innocent. This is where things begin to really differ from the prior entries. The inspector in charge at the precinct recognizes him as the vigilante a decade earlier. He comes to Kersey with a proposition, do what you want, kill whatever thugs you want, but leave some behind for the police to nab some headlines.

He takes the deal, by all he really was to do is get back to his friend's apartment and begin his one man war on the gangs. This is exactly what he does. He enlists other tenants of he apartment, helping create some traps, and see what kind of hardware they have, and you will likely be surprised by what you find.

Death Wish 3 is a movie that really doesn't need all that much description. It comes down to a one man war waged on a gang. It is bloody, it is violent, and it is gleefully over the top. It feels like they went out of their way to avoid the darkness of the fist two films and decided to overcompensate in the other direction. The result is just a big ole slice of awesome.

With a couple of small changes, you could turn this into some wasteland battle with survivors fending off cannibals. It is pretty crazy to watch. The gang wears new wave punk gear and bear matching forehead paint patterns. We see all sorts of hardware, including the Wildey Magnum, a unique looking gun (and Bronson's personal piece). There is also a great scene of Bronson firing a 30 calibre machine gun from the hip. It is glorious.

The movie is forever building, forever pushing the edges further outward, all leading up to all out war between the gang, the police, and the locals, led by Kersey. You don't even need the dialogue, just watch the actions, it all works. Bronson is an all time cinematic bad ass, here he is, well into his sixties and still,throwing down in convincing fashion.

Clearly not a movie for everyone, but it is one for me. This has the grit and the corn in equal measure. A stoic anti-hero holding fast against those who wish to separate him from his life. It is a movie that exists in a real, of moral ambiguity where the lines between good guy and bad guy are blurred, where you question if the punishment fits the crime, even if just momentarily. This movie is just an utter delight.

Highly Recommended.

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Dell said...

Been a long time since I've seen this. I remember it as the place where the franchise when completely jumped the gloriously enjoyable fashion, mind you, but jumping the shark nonetheless.

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