Back in New York: DEATH WISH 3
And THIS is what we’ve been fucking talking about. Bring it on.
Contains a ludicrous amount of creeps getting wasted and spoilers below.
When we last left the Kerse, he’d taken up his vigilante mantle and was out there bringing painful retribution to all the punks, creeps and other street scum out there. Winner had made damned sure of it this time, with the stunning end of Death Wish 2, but he’d promised us this before:
and reneged like the filthy lying fat hack that he is. However, something had snapped in his head between Death Wish 2 and 3. I don’t know, maybe he simply didn’t want to make any more of them, or maybe he’d ingested enough coke to make Tony Montana think twice, but this time around he’d gone completely off the rails and taken Bronson and the world of the Kerse with him. This, O My Brothers, is going to get messy.
Despite their being no evidence of the Kerse having friends that don’t get raped and murdered, we join the film with him on a bus to New York to visit long time buddy Charlie. Charlie, however, lives in a shitty tenement in a bit of New York that could double as Beirut in the 80’s and has somehow managed to piss off the local creeps (including William S. Preston himself, Alex Winter) and is dying as the Kerse pitches up. Using the Alias Richard Kimble (I actually don’t know what it is, but it sounds like that) he’s arrested by the local pigs and thrown in the tank. Inside the pen, we’re introduced to head creep, Fraker (Gavan O’Herlihy), who, probably because he’s bored, has two subordinate creeps attack the Kerse and get a beating. Fraker gets a dubious parole, and The Kerse cuts a deal with Police Chief Shriker (Ed Lauter) to waste as many creeps as he feels like, provided he throws the local cops a bone or two in the way of arrests (totally reneged on by The Kerse). Shriker, incidentally, knows exactly who the Kerse is, and Winner makes no fucking bones that our hero has been tooling around the States wasting scumbags for shits and giggles.
Anyhoo, the Kerse returns home to stay in Charlie’s place, which is, unluckily for all the street scum, right in the middle of Fraker’s turf. The other, non-creep, inhabitants of the building are a load of OAP’s (including WW2 Veteran Bennett (Martin Balsam), a nice couple of Jewish pensioners, and a very unfortunate Hispanic husband and wife). The Kerse takes it upon himself to protect this block of coffin dodgers from the marauding creeps and clean the fucking town up with a range of increasingly silly weapons- all obtained via mail order:
Amazon Customer Services: Good morning caller, how can we assist you today
The Kerse: I ordered a rocket launcher 2 weeks ago, and it hasn’t arrived yet. I’ve got my tracking number, can you tell me when I can expect it?
Moving on, because everyone needs a hobby, he also knocks boots with insanely idealistic public defender (Deborah Raffin), before she’s wasted by Fraker, deals with the aftermath of Deanna Troi’s rape and murder (told you they were unlucky) and the whole mess builds up to a showdown where the body count rises beyond a level best termed “alarming”. Oh, yeah, he walks free in the end, despite probably now being the most prolific serial killer in history.
Much like the first film, Death Wish 3 defies any reasonable analysis, because if there’s one word to describe what we see here, then it’s “gratuitous”. Everything in the movie is gratuitous. Everything. For example, does The Kerse really need a “475 Wildey Magnum” (he helpfully tells his OAP buddies that it was invented to hunt big game) that he has to custom make the ammo for to off punks? I would argue that no, he doesn’t. Although paradoxically, the film does need the Kerse to be using these ridiculous guns as part of the fun. Everything we see here is so completely over the top as to border on insane, and I fucking love it for it. The acting, particularly from Bronson and O’Herlihy (sporting the most ridiculous haircut ever) is overblown and magnificent as everyone seems to be having a blast here and it really shows.
There’s so much of this film that’s great fun, and a lot of this comes from script level. The punk called “The Giggler”, named because he runs like greased lightning and giggles while doing it, for example, is wasted by The Kerse, and when the report goes to Fraker, the dialogue follows as thus:
Creep: They killed The Giggler, man!
Fraker: They had no business doing that. None.
When I first heard this, I honestly couldn’t stop laughing for a while and missed the important subtle character development taking place in this scene. Hehe.
I can’t pick a favourite bit, because so much of it is golden- but here are my top 5 hits from Death Wish 3, and any of these would make it worth watching in their own right:
5) Setting up the block with a load of daft booby traps like a demented Kevin in Home Alone
The Kerse decides that the punks shouldn’t have the run of the block, so sets it up with charming deterrents such as spring-loaded boards to deliver a knife to the face and so forth. Hi jinks ensue.
4) Blatantly entrapping two punks for a bit of Death Wishin’
Because every man needs a car, The Kerse buys a new one and leaves it parked noticeably outside his flat. Sure enough, two punks come to rob it to be met by a feigning-innocence Kerse and, ultimately, bullets, This is great because a) it’s blatant entrapment, and b) this is actually Vincent Vega’s “it would have been worth them fucking with my car, to catch them fucking with my car” mentality
3) Shooting Fraker with a rocket launcher
No need to justify this one. Although the film loses points for it taking place off screen. Boooooooooo!
2) Shriker wasting Will. S. Preston Esquire to save The Kerse’ arse and delivering the line “I owed you one, Dude”.
Unintentionally, but screamingly, funny. It’s clearly meant to be working on the western theme, but it’s really, really hilarious to see Winter check out followed by this line.
1) Walking down the street with a fucking ridiculous WW2 machine gun raining hot lead down on a veritable army of punks
Once again, Death Wish 3 desperately wants to be a western. We see prints from Westerns, the “Dude” line comes up frequently, and Kersey observes a guy outside a movie theatre in cowboy gear. Indeed, strangely, this time around, it’s actually not a million miles from a western, were that cowboy film scripted by a speed freak. This, actually, is the classic “outsider comes into town and cleans it up” thing, and we can all name stacks of examples of that. Death Wish 3 is the spiritual heir, albeit a totally insane one, to the original spaghetti westerns and all the more fantastic for it.
Fraker and his creeps are easily the most entertaining group of villains so far. Fraker, is a complete bastard on every conceivable level, and I’m amazed that nobody capped his arse before the Kerse came to town. In a film full of him committing acts of utter bastardy, I genuinely think the worst might be offing the wife of the old dude that owns the convenience store, then ringing him to tell the poor sod to come home as his wife’s dying- except she’s already dead. This is one punk desperately in need of some serious street justice, Bronson-style, and it’s summarily (and wonderfully) delivered through the medium of rocket launcher to the chops.
A final word on the rape sequence in this film. Yes, it’s totally and utterly gratuitous, and I’m not even sure it’s necessary from a plot point of view. What, exactly, are Fraker and his creeps hoping to accomplish here? She’s not related to the Kerse, in fact, she’s barely on first name terms with him. Still, it’s nice of the doctors to call him and the husband to tell him she’s got a broken arm, so come and pick her up. It would, perhaps, have been nicer if they’d told him to get a taxi and not have The Kerse give him a lift, as the poor dear expires (from “complications”) before they get there.
Overall, this is a fantastic slice of bugnuts OTT 80’s schlock, and there’s no way that I wasn’t going to love it. Which is just as well, because I love every single stupid moment of it- even the stupid synth driven score provided by one Jimmy Page (Jimmy Page! Although he did score the last film, I forgot to mention it. And why synth, Jimmy? This should be full of ridiculous hair metal guitar wankery). Yes, it’s objectively a pretty terrible film, but it’s so gleefully amusing, genuinely hilarious, and really did check it’s sanity in the cloakroom on arrival that I’m almost tempted to watch it again. I’m giving it 3 and a half Kerse’s delivering Street Justice out of 4, and I do recommend this one. With beer. Obviously.
Next up, Death Wish goes all message-y as the Kerse cleans the streets of LA from organised crime and makes sure that nobody can buy cocaine. Seriously. It does, however, feature an on camera death by rocket launcher, though, so it’s not a total waste of time.