Bullet Points: Death Wish 3
What makes a movie great?
There are two major factors that make movies great in my opinion… 1) You can watch the movie again and again and never tire of it. 2) The movie allows you to escape from the realities of the work a day world.
And using that criteria I have been known to make the bold statement that Death Wish 3 is the greatest movie of all-time.
The original Death Wish was a gritty crime movie, not unlike other films of its time. But it resonated with audiences like no other. I’ve read stories that people actually cheered in the theater as Charles Bronson’s character, Paul Kersey, cleaned up the streets of New York one mugger at a time.
When Cannon Films acquired the rights to the Death Wish franchise, they took things in a more exploitative direction with Death Wish II. Paul Kersey wasn’t a champion against urban crime as a whole, but had a laser focus on the thugs who killed and raped both his daughter and his housekeeper.
Then along came Death Wish 3 on November 1st, 1985.
Death Wish 3 grabs the audience by the neck and says “Let’s go!” It is over the top action like only Cannon could have produced.
If there were rules or guidelines on how a 64 year old man should be portrayed in films in the 1980’s… If there were rules or guidelines for things a 64 year old man should or should not be doing in a movie in the 1980’s… Death Wish 3 basically said “F*ck All Rules!”
- Back In New York: In Death Wish 3, Paul Kersey returns to where he first became a vigilante New York City (although the majority of the film was actually shot in London) after Death Wish II had him living in Los Angeles. The movie starts off innocently enough with Paul Kersey on a bus. He’s coming back to New York to visit an old war buddy named Charley. When he arrives at Charley’s apartment, he finds the door open and a bloody and beaten Charley on the floor. As he’s tending to his friend, the cops show up (where were they when Charley needed them) and they instantly assume Kersey is responsible for what happened to Charley.
- Justice… Shriker Style: Kersey is going by his alias Paul Kimble, but he couldn’t fool Lt. Richard Shriker (Ed Lauter). The backstory is that Shriker was one of the cops who took Kersey to the hospital at the end of the original Death Wish. I always thought they could have made Shriker’s character, the older version of the Christopher Guest character, Patrolman Reilly, in the original. Anyway, with the crime statistics in his precinct on the rise, Shriker thinks outside the box and decides to allow Kersey to get back on the streets and use his vigilante skills to help clean things up… as I said, a great movie should be an escape from reality.
- One Night in Jail: In his one night stay in jail, we are introduced to Kersey’s antagonist, Fraker (Played by Gavan O’Herlihy, son of Dan O’Herlihy who played The Old Man in Robocop). He and Kersey have an altercation in the holding cell and have to be separated before it gets too ugly. We are also introduced to Kersey’s love interest in the movie Kathryn Davis (Deborah Raffin). Davis is the public defender assigned to Kersey’s case so naturally she’d later ask him over for dinner. That’s right I said over for dinner. It would be bad enough if she asked a man she met in jail to meet her at a public restaurant where there would at least be witnesses. No she goes and invites him to her home… again, escape from reality.
- Nice Face Paint: As luck would have it, Fraker is the leader of the gang that is terrorizing the neighborhood Charley lived in. Fraker’s gang includes such characters as The Giggler. The Giggler is known for his amazing speed, this guy really moves and he laughs when he runs, hence the name The Giggler. There’s also Angel (Fraker’s right hand man), The Cuban (who I assume is from Cuba), Hermosa (played by Alex Winter of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure fame) and Chaco.
- Meet Your New Neighbors: Paul Kersey moves into Charley’s apartment since the rent is paid until the end of the month and he needs a place to rest up when he’s not bringing justice to the streets. Paul gets to know his fellow tenants. They include a mutual friend of his and Charley’s named Bennett (played by Martin Balsam), Bennett owns a shop where he fixes meters for the cab companies. He also has a “B” on his baseball cap, which I assume stands for Bennett. There’s a nice older Jewish couple, Eli and Erica Kaprov. Erica can make a mean stuffed cabbage and can really spin a yarn. There’s also Rodriguez and his wife Maria. And Emil, who not only lives in the building but he owns and operates the laundromat across the street.
The movie quickly gets all the pieces in place and gives the audience what it wants… Kersey killing creeps! Just another of the reasons this movie is so great. It doesn’t waste your time.
Once you see Death Wish 3, you will never forget it. Even after one viewing, there will be at least a line or moment of the film that will embed itself in your brain forever. After you’ve seen it dozens of times, like me, your head will be full of Death Wish 3 facts and observations like these…
- BURN!: When Paul Kersey first meets Bennett outside the apartment building and Bennett asks him who he is, Kersey responds with “I was a friend of Charley’s”. Bennett says he must be Paul and mentions that Charley always talked about him. I feel like Kersey wanted to say “That’s funny, he never mentioned you once.”
- Stone Cold: Not sure if it is because it is the third installment and he’s already had to cope with so much death in his life, but Kersey’s reaction or should I say non-reaction to death of Kathryn Davis proves how much she meant to him. Also, remember the “escape from reality” rule when viewing her death scene.
- Temporary Help: I enjoy that there’s a number that Fraker can call to “get more heat in his area”. I had no idea temp agencies could place thugs.
- Attention Star Trek Fans: I am sure any red-blooded male Star Trek fan of Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) already knows about her work as Maria in Death Wish 3. Don’t you? Perverts!
- Favorite Kersey Quote: “Chicken’s good. I like chicken.”
- Good For The Economy: In Death Wish 3, Paul Kersey’s weapon of choice is his Wildey Magnum. The popularity of the movie saw a spike in the sale of Wildey Magnums. The increased sales saved Wildey Inc from bankruptcy. Therefore, Death Wish 3 is good for the economy and helped people keep their jobs. Not only is it a great movie, it could run for office.