DEATH WISH 3
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
The popularity of “Death Wish” and “Death Wish 2” led to the next installment of the franchise with “Death Wish 3” in 1985. This film was the bridge between the more personal and character-driven first films to the more schlocky and silly later movies.
It’s still meant to tell a personal story as Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) returns to New York City (from where he was banned in the first film) to visit an old friend. Unfortunately, he discovers his friend’s neighborhood is under assault by a gang of psychotic street punks who rule with intimidation and violence. When he faces off with the street gang’s leader, the punks take things out on the citizens, which leads Kersey to declare all-out war.
In this film, Bronson takes a bold step from being a grief-stricken vigilante to becoming an 80s modern-day superhero. His New York ban has been lifted by a detective in the NYPD who wants Kersey to hunt down and dispatch the criminals the police can’t touch. This is ultimately a silly angle that never gets fully explored and eventually abandoned at one point in the film.
This plot angle gets things rolling, and it offers a reason for the punks to actually stand up and take notice of Bronson. However, it soon becomes unimportant, as if the writers just forgot about it at one point. Personally, I would have liked to have seen a vigilante-for-hire installment in the series at this time.
The punks in this film are some of the better villains in Bronson’s vigilante films, featuring a nonsensical camaraderie and bizarre facial war paint. Even more than the previous films, the punks are cartoonish whack-jobs whose entire lives revolve around hanging out and causing mayhem. They appear to have stepped right out of a Sid Viscous fever dream and have no real depth.
But depth is not why you should be watching “Death Wish 3.” While it has a long and often arduous (and at times unintentionally silly) build-up, it’s got one hell of a third act. When Kersey declares war against the street gang, he literally goes to war.
The final assault of citizens versus punks is hilariously over-the-top, bringing as much artillery as a Rambo movie and easily as much bloodshed. Things escalate fast in this segment, and it makes guerilla heroes out of the citizens trying to take back their city.
Overblown and unrealistic yet ultimately cathartic and exciting, “Death Wish 3” is still an entertaining ride.
The new Blu-ray comes with no special features aside from the original theatrical trailer.