Saturday, October 24, 2015

Movie review - "Death Wish 3" (1985) *

Charles Bronson and Michael Winner struggled to make successful films which didn't involve vigilante action so they got back in the saddle again for a not particularly wanted sequel. Bronson is back in New York and those gangs refuse to leave him alone, beating up an old friend of his to death. Charlie moves in to his friend's apartment complex and takes on some gang members.

Now that's actually a pretty good idea for a Death Wish movie - use The Magnificent Seven as a template, and have Bronson teach some poor downtrodden victims how to fight back. And there's definitely some of that in the film - teaching a little old Jewish couple how to boobtrap their apartment and so on. And the movie has one or two other decent ideas for a vigilante film - a brutal cop (Ed Lauter) tries to enlist Bronson's help, Bronson falls for a public defender, Deborah Raffin. Plus Gavan O'Herlihy is genuinely chilling as the main baddy.

But exploiting these good ideas proves too hard for the filmmakers. Basically Bronson just walks around blowing away gang members, who are dressed in brightly coloured clothing that makes them look like they've walked off the set of Electric Boogaloo. There is some appeal in Charles Bronson shooting muggers dead - one memorable moment he gets bag snatched, pulls out a massive pistol, shoots the guy dead on a crowded street... and hardly anyone seems to notice. And the over the top nature of the finale, with an all in battle and Bronson killing O'Herlihy with a rocket launcher, is actually kind of fun for sheer stupidity.

But it's too nasty to be enjoyable on a cartoon level. Pretty much everyone Bronson tries to help out winds up dead - the Jewish couple have their throats cut and are shot, Martin Balsam is thrown off a building, a nice hispanic lady is raped (director Michael Winner makes sure we get full frontal nudity) and killed, Deborah Raffin (who I felt for sure was going to defend one of the baddies) is killed. Sure Bronson helps wipe out a lot of the gang, including the leader, but there are still plenty left at the end - and only a few residents. Instead of having the finale involve a whole bunch of residents, there's only one or two - and is mostly Bronson and Ed Lauter, who we don't care about.

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