**** Out of 5
Tagline- He’s Judge, Jury and Executioner
Release Date- November 1st, 1985
Running Time- 90-Minutes
Screenplay- Michael Edmonds (Don Jakoby)
Director- Michael Winner
Starring- Charles Bronson, Ed Lauter, Deborah Raffin, Joseph Gonzalez with Gavan O’Herlihy and Martin Balsam as Bennett
Released in 1985 Death Wish 3 took the series in a new direction though has enough elements to still sort of feel like a Death Wish film whereas the 4th film to me sort of felt unrelated, but I suppose the same can be said about this one in many ways as when breaking the film down it is quite removed from the first two, but again I do feel as if there is enough of a connection to link in with the previous two. The first two were crime/dramas whereas Death Wish 3 is sort of the standard 80s action film made by Cannon Films at the time and can be seen as an exploitation film. The original Death Wish is by far the best of the series however I thought Death Wish II was a little more fun, but Death Wish 3 was by far the most entertaining of the series. Death Wish 3 isn’t exactly high quality cinema, but its one of the most fun filled films I’ve ever seen. Death Wish 3 has all the great cult classic aspects, silly dialogue, crazy action scenes and a mid 60s Charles Bronson hooking up with a woman half his age and killing people half his age. The final act to Death Wish 3 is off the wall insane and I remember when I first watched it I couldn’t help but yell out this is the greatest movie ever! Ok so I guess I wouldn’t go that far, but again Death Wish 3 is for me easily one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen.
Whenever I write or talk about the Death Wish series I always mention how the original is the holy grail of the vigilante film. As much as I love the original I would give a very slight edge to William Lustig’s Vigilante, but that’s another subject. Death Wish is the film that forever shaped the vigilante film and as long as they’re made it will always come back to Death Wish. When the original was released in 1974 and at the time Charles Bronson while a successful actor was mostly a supporting actor or if a lead role such as Once Upon a Time in the West he was more co-lead I suppose. But after Death Wish, Bronson became a lead actor with a number of hits, but when Death Wish II came along a lot of his films weren’t big hits and that’s why he reprised the role (plus the nice payday). By the time Death Wish 3 came around in 1985, Bronson again was in need of a hit as his films even if turning a profit weren’t as successful as his past films right after Death Wish and outside of Death Wish II he only had moderate success. As much as I love Death Wish 3 I think its clear Bronson took the role to have a hit and a payday as he does seem to be going through the motions, but Bronson had such a screen presence he’s again excellent as Paul Kersey.
Paul Kersey (Bronson) returns to NY to visit a friend in Brooklyn, but when he arrives he finds his friend badly beaten and on the verge of death. The cops bust in and arrest Kersey; after spending a few hours in prison he’s released, but is now working for Lt. Shriker (Lauter) on taking down the gang that is terrorizing the neighborhood.
The screenplay was written by Don Jakoby under the name Michael Edmonds and Jakoby has written such films as Lifeforce, Invaders from Mars (both for Cannon) and Arachnophobia and John Carpenter’s Vampires. The screenplay is a total blast filled with silly dialogue and extremely fun characters as they all add to the craziness of the film. This time around the thugs are a little more organized well to some degree. With often funny dialogue, entertaining characters, Death Wish 3 may not exactly feature great writing in the traditional sense, but its so much fun and that very much elevates the screenplay. Death Wish 3 is comedic gold and while I’m sure most of the comedy was intentional a lot of it however wasn’t. Lets face it Death Wish 3 will never be mistaken with Oscar worthy material, but the script by Edmonds is just a complete blast.
Here are some of the highlights.
While eating dinner with some neighbors, Kersey goes outside to confront two gang members.
Hey, what’s the problem
With the car, what’s the problem?
Just get outta my fucking face. Who are you?
We’re stealing a fucking car, what’s it to you?
Its my car
After that exchange, Kersey kills the two thugs and goes back inside to eat dinner.
More great dialogue moments.
Its like killing roaches you have to kill them all, otherwise what’s the use?
I hope you like chicken. Its the only thing I know how to make.
Chicken’s good. I like chicken.
They killed the Giggler man, they killed the Giggler.
They had no business doing that. None.
Director Michael Winner once again directs and after this he would leave the series. Winner has stated he wanted to make a lighter film than the first two. While Death Wish II was serious it also had a fun tone even if it wasn’t meant to be light. With Death Wish 3 I assume Michael Winner was making more of a satire of the first two films. The tone here is much lighter and fun and as mentioned is more along the lines of the typical 80s action film by Cannon. The first two films received some negative attention for the attack on Kersey’s wife and daughter in the original and housekeeper and daughter in the 2nd. However no sexual assault is shown on camera this time around. When Death Wish II was released it carried an X-rating and the attack of Kersey’s housekeeper and daughter were edited to obtain the R. Death Wish 3 also received an X, but Winner appealed and the MPAA lowered the rating to an R. Death Wish 3 is well paced and always a lot of fun. This time around instead of being your average guy, Kersey is now Rambo. First Blood was quite different than the rest and the Rambo as we know it didn’t start until the 2nd film and Rambo: First Blood Part II was released May 22nd in 1985 and Death Wish 3 November 1st, 1985. I have no idea how far into production Death Wish 3 was to know if the 2nd Rambo was an influence, but basically Kersey is now Rambo simple as that. As I mentioned I assume Winner directed this as a satire of sorts, but not all the comedic elements were intentional. While there is action spread out though the film most of it is saved for the final act, which is just off the wall insane; its Bronson and the civilians Vs the gang with the cops involved as well. Regular civilians bust out guns and various weapons and even set up booby traps and while its so absurd, but Michael Winner’s action scenes are so fun and violent and the more absurd the more fun you’ll have with it as Brooklyn is pretty much destroyed as its all out war on the streets. For his last Death Wish, Michael Winner goes all out and while from a filmmaking side of things, Death Wish 3 is far removed from the original, but in the fun factor, Michael Winner delivers the goods as like I said Death Wish 3 is just insane with perhaps the craziest final act I’ve seen in any action film. On January 21st, 2013 at the age of 77 Michael Winner would pass away.
Overall Death Wish 3 is one of those films that’s high on the fun factor from opening until closing. Charles Bronson is again great and its never tiring seeing him dispatch thugs. Apparently, Bronson didn’t have a great experience filming Death Wish 3, nor did he really care for it, which is the most likely reason Michael Winner didn’t return for the 4th or 5th.