Charles Bronson is back in the streets of New York and his relentless quest for justice continues in this third entry in the ‘Death Wish’ franchise. Paul Kersey takes the term “stick to one’s guns” quite seriously here, as virtually everything that fires something becomes the ultimate deadly weapon in his hands. And all the scum throughout the city will know it!
Since Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) was running short of actual relatives to avenge, the third installment in the ‘Death Wish’ saga revolves on him returning to New York to visit an old war buddy. He arrives only to find out that Brooklyn entirely changed into a pauperized gangland and that youthful thugs killed his friend and continuously terrorize all the other tenants of a ramshackle apartment building. Kersey strikes a deal with the local police commissioner, conquers the heart of his blond attorney, blows away numerous villains with an impressive Wildey Magnum gun and gradually trains and inspires the petrified New Yorkers to stand up for themselves.
Okay, there’s no more point in defending the ‘Death Wish’ series after seeing part three. The 1974 original was a masterpiece that focused on social drama as much as it did on retribution and, even though it was pure exploitation, part two still had quite a few redeeming qualities and at least the events were logically linked to those occurring in the first film. Number three frequently feels like a totally separate franchise. Apparently, Kersey isn’t an architect anymore, he’s ten times more social and talkative than he used to be and suddenly nobody, not even the police, is against acts of vigilance and vengeance anymore? All these changes and several other aspects make it more than obvious that Michael Winner and Charles Bronson reduced their succesful ‘Death Wish’ formula to a purely brainless and exploitative action series, with a death toll that gigantically increases with each episode, armory that becomes more and more explosive and criminals that get nastier, sleazier, meaner and a lot harder to kill. All admittedly applaudable in its own right, yes. However…
The gentlemen didn’t seem to realize that the non-stop spitfire of violence actually creates an opposite effect, namely that this third effort turned out extremely monotonous and more tedious than the previous two. I once read a brilliant review that referred to ‘Death Wish 3′ as the pure definition of cinematic masturbation. This description couldn’t be more spot-on, as the script tiredly moves itself from one repugnant execution sequence to the next. Particularly the final twenty minutes are a complete orgy of gunfire, explosions and executions by means of improvised homemade measures. Yi-Haaa! This entry in the series has nonetheless quite an interesting supportive cast, including Martin Balsam (‘Psycho’, ’12 Angry Men’) as the fatigue neighbor who keeps machine guns in his closet, Ed Lauter (‘Family Plot’, ‘The Longest Yard’) as the slightly unorthodox copper and even Alex Winter (from ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure & Bogus Journey’) in his debut role as one of the thugs.
Trailer on YouTube.