Death Wish 3 is about as far from the more serious tone of the original Death Wish as you could ever wish for (if you wish for that kind of thing). That film had serious questions to ask. Death Wish 2 was a more straight up revenge thriller. Death Wish 3 evolves (or maybe devolves) further, becoming an insane action romp where gangs of thugs roam the streets like a Broadway dance troupe fallen on hard times.
Enter Charles Bronson, visiting an old war buddy who, before Bronson can even get to the poor guy's apartment, has been brutally beaten to death with lengths of chain by a gang of no-good punkass motherfuckers.
At this stage of the blood soaked franchise, Bronson has become a kind of magnet for scumbags. He lands himself in jail early on, where he runs into a local gang leader who takes an instant dislike to him. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s something to do with that wispy moustache that Bronson was always trying to grow throughout his career. Anyhoo, as a parting shot, the gang leader, as he’s released from jail, promises Bronson that he’ll "kill a little old lady, just for you." Charming!
All out war engulfs the streets
But it sets the tone. There’s a great bit where Bronson is eating dinner with friends, hears someone breaking into his car outside, excuses himself from the table, then nips out and shoots two scumbags point-blank through the chest. He then heads back inside to finish his dinner like he’d just stepped out for a cigarette break.
Another scene sees him buy an expensive camera so that he can stroll cheerfully through the streets, twirling the camera around as mugger bait whilst he eats an ice cream. Sure enough, a mugger nicks the camera, whereby Bronson pulls a massive hand cannon from inside his jacket and blows a hole the size of a dinner plate in the bad guy's back. Cue an entire street full of people jumping up and down and cheering on Bronson's insane bloodlust.
But even that scene can’t really prepare you for the utter mayhem that is the last half hour of the film. Bronson's antics throughout the first sixty minutes have whipped the local populace into a violent frenzy, and all out war engulfs the streets. The main baddy even orders a new gang of skuzzballs by telephone, as easy as you or I would order a pizza. But they're just fresh meat for Bronson's bullets. If by this point of the movie, you haven’t realised that Death Wish 3 is pretty far from a serious treatment of the implications of being a vigilante, then you will when Bronson breaks out the rocket launcher.
It’s an amazing film, for all the wrong reasons, and the finest comedy of the last thirty-five years.