- Movie Rating -

Death Wish 3 (1985)

| November 1, 1985

It is publicly known that Charles Bronson did not want to make Death Wish 3.  I can respect that.  I might have respected him more if he’d stuck to his guns but here we are.  His objections to the film are painfully obvious.  What started out as a brutal and frightening statement about the nature of street vigilantism turned quickly into an ugly portrait of fantasy wish fulfillment aimed at sexual violence and the persistent sight of watching sick street thugs being blown away with a high caliber bullet.  It is pornography in the worst sense.

Death Wish 3 turns the series, I guess, into a statement about the current state of street violence wrought from the stories of Bernie Getz, the New York subway vigilante, but certainly from the success of Rambo and its imitators.  Bronson again plays Paul Kirsey the former architect who once went berserk on the streets of New York after his wife and daughter were raped and murdered by thugs.  That film had a point, but this film is so lazy that it can’t even muster the confidence to be good trash.

Bronson sleepwalks through the role as Kirsey returns to New York despite Lieutenant Ochoa’s previous warning never to return (that was in the first one) where he visits and old friend who, very quickly, meets a gruesome end.  He strikes a deal with the local police chief (Ed Lauter) that he can do his vigilante schtick so long as he keeps him informed.

The streets of New York are a war zone and Kersey quickly goes back to work.  His target is a large roving gang led by a creep named Manny Fraker (Gavin O’Herlihy) who has been reigning terror and mayhem on the occupants of a small tenement building and, in fact, the entire neighborhood.  Kersey quickly assesses that his usual hand cannon won’t do it, so he enlists the help of a buddy to get some more fire power.  Upping the ante, he then turns a war zone into an even bigger war zone.

Bronson is bored by all of this.  He’s not giving a performance; he’s actually just half-heartedly shooting guns and droning dialogue.  He doesn’t want to be here and it shows.  I was fairly bored too but what kept me semi-interested was the nature of the street violence.  Director Michael Winner and the producers at Cannon have no real interest in making a good movie but they have the potential to shine a spotlight on gang violence, and they can’t even get that right.  We all know that most street gangs in New York are racially divided.  There are black gangs, Latino gangs and even Asian gangs, but the producers of this movie are nervous about focusing on that.  The gangs are racially mixed – harmonious in their terror and mayhem spree that doesn’t depend on ethnic divides.  The executives at Cannon want to avoid a statement about violent minority gangs and that gives the movie a seedy level of cowardice.  I might not have minded the members of the gang were portrayed as human beings, but they’re not.  They are just faceless pawns to be blown away by an action star. 

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1985) View IMDB Filed in: Action