Death Wish 3 may not be the best Death Wish movie, but it is my favorite one. The original film was a 1970s moody contemplation about what happens to a modern liberal when the system fails him completely in the face of urban crime and rot.
Paul Kersey goes from being an upper class New York City Liberal sophisticate to a widower of a murdered wife and a comatose rape victim daughter. After mulling it over he goes on a vigilante streak, mowing down mooks all over the city before getting busted. Luckily for him, the New York powers that be just run him out of the city. It would be bad form to arrest a man who had become a folk hero to the people in the city.
Death Wish 2, which I already talked about, shows Paul in Los Angeles trying to start over. Unfortunately, Paul Kersey is God’s own punching bag. His LA home is raided, his daughter is raped, kidnapped and raped again before dying in an escape attempt.
Paul sets out for revenge and this time he gets it. This time he decides that killing shitbags is his new passion.
That takes us to Death Wish 3. The third movie is when Paul becomes a full on vigilante comic book character. You could easily see the 1980s Mike Baron Punisher being the main character in place of Paul.
Kersey goes back to the Big Rotten Apple to visit an old Korean war buddy just in time to find him dead from a home invasion. The cops bust in just in time to find Paul with the body and arrest him for the murder. Once downtown, the chief recognizes Paul as the original vigilante from the 70s. Seeing a chance to stop the out of control gang problem in the area, he kicks Paul loose with the promise that he will let him act as he sees fit within reason.
Paul goes back to stay in the apartment of his now dead friend. The dead vet buddy had, very unrealistically, hidden two World War II era machine guns in his apartment along with thousands of rounds of ammunition. Paul befriends the good people who live on the block and starts picking off the street gang members in some pretty awesome and sometimes hilarious ways including blowing away thugs with a .475 Wildey magnum. Paul must have subscribed to the same overkill philosophy as Harry Callahan.
After more innocent dead people, a rape and and another dead love interest for Paul, things climax in a street battle. With the help of the residents and some cops. Paul battles about a thousand gang members with belt fed machine gun and his Wildey.
Death Wish 3 was despised by the critics, of course. Showing how out of touch they were, and still are, was the fact it was number 1 in at the box office for 3 weeks. The director, Michael Winner, became a figure of hate for this very violent film and you can find a lot of old interviews of him being raked over the coals. It’s fine, Mr. Winner, you are 1st class in my book, RIP.
Full of violence, killing, rape, and lots of shooting in a 1980s New York City (really London doubling up) it is a 1980s Cannon Films vigilante action classic. If you are looking for a serious meditation on vigilante justice and the toll it takes on the people who try it, this is not for you.
This is a movie that says:
“Yeah damn it! If the cops won’t do it, we should!”
Easy to see how it was popular with the hoi polloi, Bernie Goetz had just taken the law into his own hands on the subway of New York just a year before.
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