Directed by: Michael Winner
Starring: Charles Bronson, Ed Lauter, Gavan O'Herlihy, Deborah Raffin, Alex Winter, and Martin Balsam
Paul Kersey (Bronson, of course) is back in action and back in New York City in this classic Cannon outing. When Kersey arrives, ostensibly to visit his old buddy, he immediately gets into a whole heap o’trouble, as you might expect. When a devious cop named Shriker (Lauter) unleashes Kersey into a crime-ridden East New York neighborhood, all he asks is that Kersey occasionally reports back to him, because he knows crime stats will drop dramatically.
But Kersey is more interested in helping the poor inhabitants of an apartment tower that’s plagued with the rampant crime in the neighborhood. He makes fast friends with Bennett (Balsam), and even finds time for romance with public defender Kathryn Davis (Raffin). But the main order of the day is to take down gang leader Fraker (O’Herlihy) and his rampaging underlings. Soon enough, Kersey wages his one-man war against the baddies and ne’er-do-wells of New York…who will survive the onslaught?
Did Judas Priest write the song “Delivering the Goods” about this movie? Well, probably not, as it’s from 1978, but they easily could have. Death Wish III is when the franchise went from being serious-minded and 70’s to being ridiculous, over the top, and 80’s. On the one hand, it lost some of its “serious points”. But on the other hand, it gained a lot in terms of the fun quotient. And this movie is a ton of fun.
The 80’s was the golden age of movies where punks take over the streets. Tenement (1985), Exterminator 2 (1984), Enemy Territory (1987), and Chains (1989) just to name a few. It’s a joy to watch Bronson blow the baddies away with a wide variety of weaponry. And set all that to a stellar Jimmy Page soundtrack, and you have a classic winner all around (and that’s not a pun based on the director’s name).
Martin Balsam is the classic old salt and he and Bronson make a stellar pairing. When Balsam first appears on screen, you expect to see a credit like “And Martin Balsam as Charles Durning in The Hal Holbrook Story, featuring Burgess Meredith and Ernest Borgnine, and with a special appearance by George Kennedy”. Needless to say, it’s awesome to watch the triumph of the older gentlemen over the disrespectful young whippersnappers.
While wags may describe the movie as “stupid” or perhaps “mindless”, we say that anyone that levels those charges has no sense of fun and mirth. And if it is stupid, it’s the good stupid we’re always talking about. Honestly, ask yourself: is there anything better than Charles Bronson in the 80’s with a rocket launcher? After some deep soul searching, you will find the answer is no. Trust us, we’ve been there, man.
Don’t get us wrong, we love the first two Death Wish movies. But the bleak, dour tone is gone here. Death Wish III marks the moment when the gray, overcast clouds broke and the sunlight flooded in. Our credo: Charles Bronson now, Charles Bronson forever!
Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett