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Film / Death Wish 3

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"It's like killing roaches. You have to kill 'em all, otherwise what's the use?"
Paul Kersey

Death Wish 3 (1985) is the third movie in the Death Wish series starring Charles Bronson.

Kersey returns to New York to visit an old buddy from his days in the Korean War, only to find him dead after another attack by gang-punks. He is mistakenly arrested for the murder, but the head cop offers him a deal: reporting any gang activity to him in exchange for being able to kill all the punks he wants. Kersey moves into the buddy's old apartment, where he and his neighbors are viciously attacked by the gang, and things escalate until all-out urban warfare erupts in the final fifteen minutes, leading to Charles Bronson's biggest onscreen kill count ever. It is also the movie that popularized the Wildey Survivor pistol in .475 Wildey Magnum (and saved Wildey from then-imminent bankruptcy in the process).

It was adapted into a videogame for 8-bit microcomputers by Gremlim Graphics, resulting in a proto example of the urban free-roaming genre.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actionized Sequel: The first two films feature a single vigilante against a relatively low number of opponents. In this one, Kersey faces a large gang of sociopaths and inspires other citizens to resist them. The body count is much higher and the fight escalates to urban warfare. Entire buildings are spectacularly destroyed.
    The Rageaholic: In many ways, the second Death Wish film is a remake of the first, but with the violence, brooding atmosphere and omnipresent sexual assault cranked up to eleven. But fret thee not, because by Death Wish 3 we're gonna find a way to crank that violence up to a twenty-fuckin'-eight!
  • Agony of the Feet: Paul puts a board full of nails on front of his bathroom window for burglars. It doesn't take long before one steps on it.
  • Big Bad: Manny Fraker.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: This depiction of New York City has a large gang of sociopaths lay claim to part of the city. They steal, kill, and terrorize with relative impunity. The police are rather ineffectual in dealing with them and ordinary citizens suffer the consequences.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Paul sets a trap for some gang members using a car as bait. Later, two gang members try to steal it, one of them is black, the other one is white. When they threaten Kersey, the black one gets shot first.
  • Bond One-Liner: After Shriker dispatches Hermosa, who was about to get the drop on Kersey while he was reloading.
    Richard Shriker: I owed you that one, dude!
  • Bottomless Magazines: Played with in the final fight. Shriker seems to get sometimes 8 to 10 shots out of his six-shot Smith & Wesson Model 19 Snub Nose, while Kersey seems to get around 10-12 shots out of his Wildey Hunter, which has a standard magazine of 7-8 rounds. The film does try for some realism, however. Kersey is shown reloading the Wildey right before Shriker shows up. Shriker uses six shots between Hermosa and two rooftop mooks, then disappears from the frame for enough time that he could have reloaded with a speed loader. After they take down the group of mooks, we do see Shriker reaching in his left jacket pocket as the almost dead mook comes up, and after Kersey finally takes him down for good, when it cuts back to both Kersey and Shriker in frame, we do see Shriker snap his right wrist and close the cylinder on his revolver, suggesting he's reloaded it again. However, it still falls somewhat into this category because Kersey and Shriker are getting way more shots than they should be getting between reloads.
  • Bulletproof Vest:
    • Near the end, the gang leader had a bulletproof vest after Kersey and Shriker empty their revolvers into him. When he points the gun at the Shriker, Paul grabs the mini bazooka and fires at him.
    • Kersey also makes a point of putting one of these on before the final battle. All of his enemies are graduates of the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy, though.
  • Cartwright Curse/Disposable Woman: Poor Kathryn. Maria too.
  • Chekhov's Gag: And not a pretty one for the criminals: shortly after arriving, Kersey helps one of the couples who accomodate him by placing a trap in their home that works by sending a spring-loaded plank to the thief's face (and someone triggers it, making him loose a few teeth). In the climactic battle, one of the gang members kicks open a door to try to attack the people inside and a similar trap (this one with a knife embedded on it) activates, impaling the guy's skull with said knife.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: Averted, with fatal results for those who try it against Kersey. When a mook hides behind a garbage can, Kersey shoots at him with his .475 Wildey Magnum (which is the most powerful semi-automatic pistol in the world, even more powerful than the Desert Eagle). The bullet goes right through the garbage can and hits the mook. Kersey puts another round into him anyway just for good measure.
  • Cops Need the Vigilante: The chief Inspector of the local police precinct gives Paul Kersey carte blanche to do whatever it takes to eliminate the criminal gang that is terrorizing the town (because crime rates overall are high enough that the police's hands are tied, and this has given the gang the idea that they have free rein to perform said terrorizing), complete with covering up for him to the press.
  • Crooks Are Better Armed: The climactic shootout has Kersey and a cop (both armed with handguns) facing off against a gang of crooks armed with black-market assault rifles and sub-machine guns. Subverted early on in the fight when Bronson is running around with a freaking Browning Machine Gun left over from WWII.
  • Decapitated Army: When Fraker rides the rocket, the rest of the punks just stop fighting and leave.
  • Description Porn: Kersey describing his .475 Wildey Magnum to his neighbours.
    Paul Kersey: Wildey's here (opens package). Fires a .457 Wildey magnum. Real stopping power.
    Bennett: Is that like a .44 magnum?
    Paul Kersey: No, the .44 is a pistol cartridge. The .457 Wildey magnum is a shorter version of the African big game cartridge. Makes a real mess.
  • Dirty Cop: Inspector Shriker is a rare non-villainous example. When Kersey is wrongfully arrested at the beginning of the movie, he gives him carte blanche to play vigilante again. Which results in dozens of dead thugs. It would be more accurate to call him a Cowboy Cop except he's not waiting till the climatic battle to flagrantly break the law.
  • Dramatic Ammo Depletion: Kersey's final confrontation with Fraker happens when Fraker notices that Kersey finally ran out of ammo for the weapons he was carrying (especially the Wildey) and ran back to his apartment to get a fresh gun.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: All the street gangs of New York are multi-ethnic (the exception in real life rather than the rule).
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: A more ludicrous example happens when the car Kathryn is in slowly rolls down a hill, hits another car and they're both engulfed by huge explosions.
  • Final Battle: Compared to the climax of the other Death Wish movies, this is the one that has quite possibly the biggest, as it ends on an all-out war in the city.
  • Giggling Villain: Appropriately nicknamed "The Giggler".
  • Groin Attack: When Inspector Shriker punches Paul off his chair to the ground and charges towards him during interrogation, Paul kicks him right in the balls.
  • Guns Do Not Work That Way: Or, in this case, M72 LAW rocket launchers. As someone so helpfully pointed out on the internet firearms database, the launcher is fitted with a fake pistol grip and trigger. He managed to fire it in the same room as his target with the back of the tube up against a wall, which should probably have killed everyone in the room.
  • Hand Cannon / I Call It "Vera": "My friend Wildey is coming." Paul's friend "Wildey" (more specifically, the .475 Wildey Magnum). Currently the most powerful semiautomatic handgun in the world.
    The Rageaholic [reacting to the above quote]: Five words that could flash-freeze a blast furnace! Bronson is referring, of course, to the .475 Wildey Magnum. But you, of course, may refer to it as WHY DOES THAT HOWITZER HAVE A HANDLE AND FUCKING TRIGGER?!"
  • Hello, Attorney!: Kathryn Davis is a public defender.
  • Hope Spot: Paul and Kathryn getting together, giving him a brief moment of happiness... right before she's killed. As well, she briefly regains consciousness as her car rolls downhill, making the viewer think she'll be able to stop the car in time. Of course, she isn't.
• Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Pretty much everyone who takes a shot at Kersey, Rodriguez, and eventually Shriker in the final act three showdown. After they team up, Kersey and Shriker jog down a street in broad daylights taking out the mooks firing at them with ease. It's most noticeable when Kersey and Shriker crouch next to a mailbox to take out at least a dozen mooks, a few armed with M-16s. Between the two of them, Kersey and Shriker take them all down without a scratch.
  • Partially subverted in the end. When Manny Fraker pops up after playing dead during the final fight, he does manage to wound Shriker in the arm. However, Fraker gets a face full of M72 LAW rocket for his troubles.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Zigzagged. Kersey is pretty spot-on with his Wildey, but the film isn't afraid to show some of his shots going wide, and show him taking multiple shots with it at mooks in the distance. In fairness, Kersey has had a lot of training with handguns by now. Shriker's aim is also pretty solid, but they show him taking multiple shots as well, and as an Inspector with the NYPD, he'd have had weapons training, making his aim and experience as good, if not better, than Kersey.
  • Insistent Terminology: The characters seem to solely refer to the bad guys as 'creeps'.
  • Kick the Dog:
  • The Lopsided Arm of the Law: Demonstrated with great drama in a single scene: when gang members barge into the apartment of an old man and his wife, the man fears enough for his life that he draws a gun and intimidates the criminals into running away. Alas, an "anonymous call" informs the police that the man owns the gun (because they are all to be decommissioned, apparently whether or not the people have licenses for them) and a cop comes to take it away, disregarding the old man's flat-out tear-filled pleading for help (the only thing he says is that the man should appreciate the fact the cop is just giving him a warning). The same gang members come back that very night to take everything that is not nailed down in the apartment.
    Gang Member (to the witnessing old folks): We'll come here whenever we want, and do whatever we want!
  • Made of Plasticine: A subdued, and unintentionally hilarious example: Rodriguez's wife Maria is raped by Fraker's gang in one scene and Rodriguez and Kersey are notified that she is in the hospital with a broken arm. By the time they arrive approximately a half hour later, the woman is dead from that same broken arm causing complications. Kersey disbelievingly reminds the doctor that tells them of Maria's passing that they were told she only had a broken arm.
    The Rageaholic: You know, I'd say women in the Death Wish series were made of tissue paper, but so far two of them have survived sex with Charles Bronson!
  • Man on Fire: Three people burn to death during the climactic urban war between the criminals and the locals.
  • May–December Romance: Charles Bronson (Paul Kersey) was 32 years older than Deborah Raffin (Kathryn Davis).
  • More Dakka: Kersey uses a .30 caliber M1919. Bennet also uses an MG-42 but the gun jams.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: Bennet showcases early on that he has a .30-Caliber M1919 Browning machine gun (surplus from World War II) in his home, and later on when he gets mad at the gang raising hell right next to his home in broad daylight, he pulls out another machine gun (a German MG-42) and points it at the gang from his fire escape exit. The gang runs like hell when they notice the gun but when Bennet actually tries to shoot it, it turns out the thing is jammed. The gang notices that as well and rush him while he tries to unjam it, tossing him off the fire escape as a result.
  • Noodle Incident: Apparently Kersey has been continuing his vigilante activity in various cities; Shriker reads from a file of several shootings that he believes Kersey was responsible for.
  • Oh, Crap!: Fraker's face just before Kersey obliterates him with a rocket launcher.
  • Only Bad Guys Call Their Lawyers: Played with; Fraker's well-dressed male lawyer gets him out of jail in a couple of hours. Meanwhile Kersey's good-looking public defender tries to convince Kersey to sue for being held without a charge, but he refuses (because of his secret deal with Shriker).
  • Police Are Useless:
    • It appears that the NYPD does not do that much to quell gang related violence in the city. They even confiscate guns belonging to the residents of the area terrorized by Fraker's gang. Only in the end we see them fight the bad guys, but with casualties that makes the townspeople and Kersey more effective in fighting the bad guys than them. It's lampshaded by Rodriguez:
    Kersey: How about the cops? Do they do anything?
    Rodriguez: Yes, they enforce the parking laws.
    • Furthermore, very early on (and then demonstrated on the scene described on "The Lopsided Arm of the Law") it is mentioned that the police are on the lookout to confiscate any and all firearms within the neighborhood, regardless of whether they are licensed or not or that taking them away inevitably leaves the residents defenseless against the psychotic (and now solely armed) gangs.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Just like in Death Wish 2, Jimmy Page did the score.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: See Giggling Villain.
  • The Quincy Punk: Fraker's gang fits this trope like a studded leather glove.
  • Rape as Drama: Maria, one of Kersey's friends, is raped and killed despite Kersey's best efforts to protect her. The bad guys also attempt to rape a woman during the shootout, but fail when Kersey kills them and saves the unnamed woman.
  • Rated M for Manly: This movie ends up as an all out war on the streets.
    The Rageaholic: (Talking about Bronson's performance in the final act of the movie) I don't give a fuck if you eat raw tiger testes and wash it down with a tall glass of rocket fuel! YOU WILL NEVER BE THIS FUCKING MANLY!
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Inspector Richard Shriker is one of the most reasonable in the franchise, even more so than Lt. Ochoa. Ochoa sympathized with Kersey but never fully supported his vigilante crusade until he was mortally wounded in the sequel. In this film, Shriker quietly gives Kersey all the room he wants to continue his crusade, as long as police get the credit. Later on, after Bennett is injured and Kersey escapes protective custody, rather than chase him down and bring him in, Shriker partners up with Kersey during the final fight and joins him in taking out as many gang mooks as he can.
  • Recruiting The Muggles: At first, Kersey just has one sidekick when he engages the street gang in the final sene. Then, more and more neighborhood people start arming themselves to help him, and then even the cop investigating Kersey's Vigilante Man actions joins in.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Jimmy Page is credited as composer, he had no involvement with the movie. Michael Winner reused Page's score for Death Wish II in the editing stage, and rearranged the music for the actual soundtrack, which included Mike Moran (credited as "arranger and conductor") on synthesizers.
  • Retirony: As if her hooking up with Paul isn't bad enough, by the time Kathryn Davis declares her intent to quit her job as a public defender and move to a new city for a fresh start, it's obvious she's doomed.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: This movie sees the vigilante unleashed again when Kersey's old war buddy is shot by more gang punks, and intensifies when he fails to save two more women.
  • Same Language Dub: Some of the extras were dubbed over due to their British accents.
  • Sequel Escalation: This sequel has more criminals and more victims, more weapons, more violence and destruction, and a higher body count.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Paul and Kathryn kiss... and the next thing we see is her lying in bed, obviously post-coital.
  • Schmuck Bait:
    • Soon after arriving to New York, Kersey buys a new car "as bait". Guess what happens to the creeps that try to steal it that same night...
    • Also, soon after his "friend" Wildey arrives, Kersey decides to go for a walk, with an expensive camera highly visible. It doesn't take long for one of the local creeps to try and steal it. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Smug Snake: Fraker seems to have only two expressions: frowny smug and smiling smug. The only moment his expression changes is when he visibly shits his pants when he sees Kersey is pointing a rocket launcher at him.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: Kersey teaches the retirees how to fight back against the young hoodlums that have moved into their neighborhood.
  • Viewers Are Morons: According to the book Bronson's Loose by Paul Talbot, the original Working Title Death Wish III was changed to Death Wish 3 because The Cannon Group conducted a survey and found that nearly half of the U.S. population could not read Roman numerals.
  • Vigilante Man: According to various noodle incidents cited by Shriker, Kersey has committed vigilante killings in a number of cities other than New York and Los Angeles, implying that he's taken up vigilantism for its own sake rather than just acting out of revenge.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Kersey's friend Rodriguez leaves in the middle of a town-wide gunfight to reload his zip gun. He doesn't appear again. He's probably deader than a doornail.
  • Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: The movie had Paul Kersey using all manner of weapons with not a hint of explanation of where he got them or how he afforded them (remember, Kersey worked as a middle class architect, not possessing great wealth, emphasized in the next film in which he sees a mansion and says "This place alone costs more than I could make if I worked for the rest of my life"). There's not just the question of money, but also availability of some of his weapons and the legality of having them shipped directly to him (including a LAW rocket launcher, something that's never been possible to buy through mail order).
  • Wretched Hive: The series started in New York City and this film moves the action back to New York. The city seems to have further decayed in the intervening period. The 1974 original film mostly featured muggers targeting random prey. This one features a street gang systematically terrorizing an entire area.