"Death Wish 3" accomplishes more in its first twenty minutes than most movies do in their entirety. The opening credits play as Bronson rides a bus back to the city that never sleeps, to music that is credited to Jimmy Page but sounds more like 80's funk crossed with a jazz fusion band. This perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Right away you know you're in good hands.
A humble beginning for a most over-the-top movie
Once Bronson is relocated to the heart of East New York, this guitar effect is introduced to the soundtrack that seems like something Page would actually write. It's a riff that brings to mind some unknown creature howling in the night and it's used to punctuate sentences in the most awesome way. Bronson goes to a used car lot to pick up some "bait" to lure out a local gang. The salesman seems doubtful. "And how do you plan to pay for this-" "Cash." BRANGGGGGG.
Fist raised - now you know it's the 80's
In "Death Wish 3," we're introduced to a neighborhood so over-ridden with depraved street gangs that it makes the Gotham City in "Batman '89" look like a nice place to live. If any real city were this devastated by crime, the government would recommend clearing out the few honest citizens (basically just children and the elderly) and nuking what was left. These gangs may resemble the cartoony punks from "The Warriors" but they're some of the sickest creeps you can imagine, from slitting an old lady's throat to raping women in broad daylight. Fortunately, Bronson is prepared to do something about it.
The main bad guy - don't ask me how but he manages to be as mean as he is ugly
Don't get the wrong idea - Bronson is a simple kind of guy. He likes chicken, ice cream, and stuffed cabbage. He enjoys good conversation with old friends, reminiscing about the war, and the love of an honest woman. But if push comes to shove, he will shove back. And believe me: you don't want to get shoved by Bronson.
'Cause chances are he'll shove your head straight through prison bars. Or shoot you point blank range with a concealed weapon, hit you over the head with a crow bar, blast you away with the kind of bullets that are usually reserved for big game hunts, mow you down with a war-era gatling gun, or reduce you to a few flaming chunks of flesh with a missile launcher. Yeah, Bronson accomplishes all of that - and more - during the course of this movie.
Rest assured, Bronson's gun will leave a crater in some gang member's back
Bronson is the definition of "speak softly and carry a big stick" and "Death Wish 3" is the definition of cheesy 80's action flick. This movie is legendary for a reason. It's filled with genuinely shocking violence, face-palm inducing lines (like the police chief that keeps calling Bronson "dude"), Bronson's unique charm, and it ends with a wholesale riot in the middle of the ghetto. Cops, biker gangs, street punks, and Bronson engage in the urban war to end all urban wars. It's worth any price of admission to watch it all go down.
A true friend is one who will feed ammo into your massive war-era machine gun
At this point you might be thinking to yourself: "wait a minute, I thought 'Death Wish' was a serious treatise on urban vigilantism." And you'd be right. But bear in mind: the first "Death Wish" came out in 1974. Part three came out in 1985. One crucial historic event occurred during that span of time. The rise of movie production time Golan-Globus. Golan Globus were single-handedly responsible for some of the most over the top flicks of the 70's and 80's, from Chuck Norris' "Delta Force" series to "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2."
The duo were truly a match made in heaven with Bronson. Here you had a soft spoken but steely-eyed action hero with decades of experience in the business, who had already made a name for himself as an ass-kicker in movies like "The Mechanic" and "Mr. Majestyk." What Golan Globus did was pair Bronson up with decent-sized budgets and some truly off-the-wall scripts that fled from any facsimile of reality.
"Death Wish 3" is the first movie where they really perfected that magical elixir of hardcore violence, cheesy one-liners, unintentional comedy, and pyrotechnics. Oh, and don't forget the misogyny. At this point Charles Bronson's character seems caught in some kind of karmic wheel of fate. Anybody he loves or cares about is destined to either die or be beaten within an inch of their life. How many times can a guy lose the woman he loves? Bronson is almost a Greek myth here, like Prometheus who was forced to have his innards eaten by a bird every day. The only way Bronson can find any kind of solace is to dish out punishment to the gangs and hoods that are just asking for it.
And in the case of "Death Wish 3," it's a hell of a lot of fun to watch.
The Italian poster for "Death Wish 3" is a work of art