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Death Wish 3
1985 - R - 92 Mins.
Director: Michael Winner
Producer: Menahem Golan, Yoram Globus
Written By: Michael Edmonds
Starring: Charles Bronson, Deborah Raffin, Ed Lauter, Martin Balsam, Gavan O'Herlihy
Review by: Jake Cremins
   

I had to sift through hundreds of photos of Charles Bronson holding kittens before I found this one.
The poster for 'Death Wish 3' shows Charles Bronson as a painted cartoon character, holding a gigantic gun. As posters go that's pretty much perfect. His character, Paul Kersey, is no longer the mild-mannered family man we met at the beginning of the first movie; he's turned into any and every action movie hero, with an ammunition belt instead of feelings or a personality. This is a 'Death Wish' movie, but it could have been a sequel to anything.

Not that I'm complaining. 'Death Wish 3' is unbelievable, stupid and violent, but after things get going it's also kind of hilarious. This movie is so incredibly ridiculous that I actually wonder if Michael Winner just got tired of making these things and decided to direct a parody without telling anyone. That would certainly explain the climax, in which Kersey dispatches the head of a bloodthirsty gang by firing a LAWS missile launcher at him from the other side of a tiny apartment kitchen. Now, in a normal bad movie it would be amusing enough that Kersey is not even scratched when the outer wall of the apartment explodes spectacularly. This movie goes for broke, though, and after the big blowout provides a moment when Kersey and the chief of police share a meaningful gaze as romantic music swells on the soundtrack. I'm not kidding.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The movie starts with Kersey returning to New York to visit an old friend from his Korean War days. But gee, wouldn't you know it, he gets there just in time to see the friend being murdered by the group of punks that holds the neighborhood hostage. The police show up just in time to mistakenly arrest Kersey for the murder; he gives them a phony name, but the chief (Ed Lauter) recognizes him as the infamous Vigilante. They have an extremely bizarre conversation in which it is explained to Kersey that the police are not required to defend Constitutional rights and can just have him killed, and then he's set loose to clean up East New York with the chief's blessing.

And clean up he does. I read a Mad Magazine satire of the first movie once, in which Charles Bronson ran around blowing away jaywalkers and litterbugs, and had a good hearty laugh over that. Well, now we're on to the third movie and that's pretty much what happens. There is, for instance, the Giggler, a purse snatcher who runs fast, but not fast enough to escape Bronson's Magnum. If you think it's a little extreme to spread someone's liver all over the sidewalk for ripping off a camera, I guess you don't live in this neighborhood: here, all of the good and noble citizens cheer from their windows as soon as they hear the gunshots. "I'm glad he's dead! He took my purse last week!" yells an old lady I'm going to steer clear of from now on.

Meanwhile Bronson is tracked down by a public defender played by the lovely Deborah Raffin. Like most public defenders in major U.S. cities, she has plenty of time on her hands to take cabs out into bad neighborhoods and look for sixty-year-olds to ask out to dinner. I mean, come on. This has to have been a joke on purpose, right? Because she's so obviously the unnecessary love interest that even Bronson seems to be able to tell, and she actually has to make an effort to remain part of the movie after he tells her to go away. And because, when she finally becomes Charlie Bronson's girlfriend in a 'Death Wish' movie, she's blown up real good five minutes later. Right? A joke?

Anyway, the gang is shocked--shocked!--to find that they're not very well liked in this area, and retaliate by turning most of the neighborhood into rubble during a climactic riot. Those citizens who are able to fight back take to the streets; the older ones content themselves by watching on, apparently delighted that their neighborhood has exploded into an orgy of violence. ("Come on, Eli, let's watch it on television," says a sweet old woman with a big grin on her face, as policemen are gunned down and cars explode outside her window.) Not since the films of Luis Bunuel has bizarre surrealism been so masterfully translated to the language of the cinema. Be careful not to choke on your popcorn.
 
Movie Guru Rating
A train wreck.  So bad some may find it unintentionally entertaining.
  1 out of 5 stars

 
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