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Death Wish 3 (1985) September 12, 2004

Posted by Dragan Antulov in Film Reviews.
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A Film Review

Copyright Dragan Antulov 1998

Fact that Charles Bronson represents one of the most important movie icons of the 1980s represents one of the biggest and almost tragic ironies of that decade. Tragedy lies in the fact that the icon status was earned less by quality of his work in movies, but the quantity. Most of those movies were produced by Cannon Group, company led by Israeli producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. Those two men probably thought that they could be the next Roger Corman, B- movie mentors of future Hollywood legends. Unfortunately, that didn’t happened, and when Cannon finally went bankrupt at the end of the decade, behind it stood the huge pile of cinematic garbage, that would require at least few centuries before it reaches the camp appeal. Sadly for Bronson, that garbage also contained numerous movies in which that capable character actor and action hero of the 1970s tried to raise their worth simply by being the main lead, and lowering his own reputation in process. On the other hand, Bronson could take comfort in a fact that those movies were extremely popular, especially among the audience 3 or 4 times younger than Bronson himself.

One of such movies that seriously marred Bronson’s reputation is DEATH WISH 3, third sequel in the series which began with DEATH WISH in 1974. In the original movie, Bronson played Paul Kersey, mild-mannered New York architect who turns into deadly street vigilante after his family fell victim to urban violence. That movie was far from masterpiece; yet, in it the director Michael Winner was skillfully offering the cinematic remedy for very real disease of growing crime rates of the time (on the same lines like Siegel in DIRTY HARRY). Unfortunately, six years later Cannon Group got rights to the character of Paul Kersey and began destroying it by pumping out sequels; even the presence of its original director didn’t stop the rapid decline of the quality. DEATH WISH 3 begins when Kersey comes to visit an old friend, living in the urban wasteland of East New York, populated by young criminals and people too old or too poor to move out. Before the reunion, Kersey’s friend falls victim to the street gang led by evil Fraker (played by Gavan O’Herlihy, probably the only noteworthy role in the film). Kersey decides to avenge his death and slowly prepares for his crusade, while the police inspector Shriker (Ed Lauter), ants to use him as a secret weapon in his losing war against the urban crime.

Bronson, the main asset in this movie, plays the character who is nothing more than an efficient killing machine. Although Bronson’s charisma does help in overcoming some implausibilities (single man in his 60s and armed with a single pistol manages to wipe out dozens of opponents with superior firepower), the lack of emotions or Bronson’s own commitment could be seen in a very few lines spoken in a film. The movie authors were somewhat aware of that emotional shallowness, so they added romantic interest for their hero – public defender played by Deborah Raffin and conveniently terminated in order to give some more motives for Kersey’s crusade. On the other hand, emotions are much better played by confronting law-abiding, yet ethnically stereotyped citizens with their daily nemesis of street punks – ruthless enough to exercise their reign of terror on the entire city blocks, and stupid enough to be killed in droves by Kersey. Unfortunately, Michael Winner doesn’t know how to work out the plot, and after torturing the viewers with mostly uninteresting characters and cliched and formulaic situations, ends this movie with a bang. The big showdown at the end – that turns East New York into the Sarajevo-like battle zone – is probably the worst part of the movie, because of the poor editing and the cheap sets and props that give away the low budget.

In short, this movie could be recommended only to the most fanatical Charles Bronson fans or for the people who are already desperate for 1980s nostalgia.

(Special note for trekkies: Marina Sirtis, the actress who played Counsellor Deanna Troi in STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION could be spotted in a small role of Portorican wife).

RATING: 3/10 (+)

Review written on July 30th 1998



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