Saturday, April 30, 2016

Death Wish 3 (1985)

After various acts of vigilantism in other cities, mass-murdering vigilante Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) returns to his native New York (in large parts represented by London, England, because of course it is) to visit his old friend Charlie. Alas, Charlie is murdered by a the multi-racial (hey, we’re for equal opportunity slaughter, one can’t help but might imagine the film saying) gang dominating the poor area he’s living in right before Kelsey arrives.

The police finds Kersey gun in hand over the dead body, and so decide he’s clearly the killer, arrest him, and torture him a bit. This is the most enthusiastic law enforcement in this film will ever get about fighting crime before the grand finale rolls around, so cherish the moment. This approach to police work naturally causes our mass-murdering vigilante hero to complain about the police ignoring his constitutional rights. Lucky for him, police Lieutenant Shriker (Ed Lauter) is one of his biggest fans (when he doesn’t punch him in the face), so our hero only has to spend a night or so behind bars where he makes the acquaintance of what will become the movie’s main bad guy. What are the odds! Afterwards, Shriker presses Kersey to go out and do his vigilante thing, otherwise he’ll rot in jail – as if our hero wouldn’t go on a killing spree in any case.

Which he does, helping out various elderly tenants, getting them killed while he’s at it, putting in five minutes for the most perfunctory romance plot ever written into a film just to get the woman killed too (as if Kersey would need that as a motivation for a bit of a rampage), and so on, and so forth, until the whole thing culminates in twenty minutes of mind-bogglingly bizarre carnage.

I’ve repeatedly gone on record about how much I loathe the first two Death Wish films, their ethics, their tone, and their shitty direction by crap artist Michael Winner. Death Wish 3 on the other hand is one of the greatest gifts the silver screen ever made to humanity, a conglomeration of stupidity, inanity and full-out insanity that just barely resembles anything you’d call a movie but that tickles every damn fancy I might even imagine having, reaching the kind of insanity you’ll otherwise only find in a very select group of Italian action movies made in the 80s.

It is often very difficult to discern which parts of Death Wish 3 are actually meant to be funny, and which just are. Because frankly, everything except the rape scenes (which the film really could have gone without, but Winner never seems to have been able to pass up on a rape or three in his movies) here is funny in one way or the other – be it Bronson’s “just a day in the office” facial expression when he shoots down a whole horde of “creeps” (as everyone in the film calls the gang members) with a large machine gun, or the way chief bad guy Fraker (Gavan O’Herlihy) calls in more bodies for the grand finale via a phone call to what I can only imagine to be “1-800-Dial-A-Henchhorde”. Said bodies, by the way, arrive in form of a motorcycle gang that must be rather conflicted, seeing that a lot of them are wearing Nazi paraphernalia while other members are black.

No matter, though, for Charles and various characters we have never seen before but who are clearly inspired by all the violence he has inflicted on the creeps – who complain about Bronson’s harsh “justice” with statements like “They killed the Giggler, man. They killed the Giggler!” – blow away all comers. Cue scenes of elderly people cheering while a whole bunch of people (the Internet suggests a body count of 78, 52 of which are Bronson’s responsibility, and I don’t think the Internet is exaggerating this time) are mowed down, and buildings catch fire. It’s a thing you really needs to see to believe, and even then you just might not be sure you’re not hallucinating.

I’m very fond of Bronson’s decision to attempt to go for a performance even more deadpan than his usual style, making Kersey the kind of guy whose reaction to the death of his grand-daughter-aged new girlfriend (who basically throws herself at him after they’ve exchanged two sentences, perhaps three) is just the same he shows when he shoots a guy (the Giggler) in the back during an absurd trap involving a camera bag and ice cream – none whatsoever. Of course, that’s probably the only way anyone involved in this thing could be expected to keep a straight face.

What else is there to say? So much, for there’s really no minute going by here that does not contain a new helping of insane action movie nonsense of the highest order. It’s beautiful, ridiculous and enough to justify the existence of all five Death Wish films.

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