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  Death Wish III
Michael “All” Winner, USA, 1985
Rating: 4.9

Posted: August 12, 2004

Why Death Wish III? Why not start at the beginning? Well, first, 'cause this is my column, and this is what I want to do. Secondly, DWIII just takes the vigilante genre to a whole 'nother level. Death Wish and Death Wish II are subjects for another day, my friends. For now, all you need to know is that if you are ever in a Death Wish film with Charles Bronson, do not, repeat, do not, under any circumstances, get involved with this man. If you do, you will be killed. End of story.

Chuck reprises his role as Paul Kersey, a man who's fed up with the encroachment of the criminal element on modern civilization, and takes an active, personal role in tipping the scales back to the side of the just. As it turns out, Paul's also something of a gruesome-crime magnet; everyone close to him eventually suffers some horrible deprivation at the hands of common street scum. Chuck returns to New York (after beating ass out on the West Coast in DWII) to find an old friend dying from injuries inflicted by members of a particularly sadistic local gang. This stuff just follows Chuck everywhere! No one is safe. Perhaps instead of taking up arms against local thugs, ol' Paul should ask the Almighty why he's picking on him in such a Job-like fashion. Chuck Bronson storming the gates of Heaven, armed only with a submachine gun! Now that's a premise for a movie for you!

Anyway, back to DWIII. What makes this movie so over-the-top? Well, first of all, the neighborhood that Chuck takes up residence in is absolutely otherworldly. The layout of the maximum-security prison in Escape From New York wasn't as chaotic as this place. Gangs run amok, people are robbed and raped in broad daylight. And to top it all off, the leader of the miscreants looks like the spawn of Charles Manson and Opie Griffith! When this ugly-ass cat -- Franker is his name -- has a testy run-in with Chuck early in the film, you just know these two men are destined to battle it out. The stage is soon set for some vintage Bronsonian justice.

So how does Chuck go about finding the guys whose beating left his friend at death's door? He buys a car. That's it. Stone-cold thug bait. Chuck parks it outside his apartment, and then gets up from his dinner to shoot the two goons who try to steal it. (How does he know these guys belong to the same gang? Just go with it, people!) Franker counters by setting loose "the Giggler" (no relation to Dr. Giggles, unfortunately), a fleet-footed thief who snatches purses and runs away laughing (hence the name). The Giggler begins terrorizing the older occupants of Chuck's apartment complex.

Bronson gathers up the residents and tells them not to worry because his friend "Wildey" is coming. Who is Wildey? Glad you asked. Wildey is a gas-operated, stainless steel, .475 caliber Wildey Magnum. Bronson tucks said pistol under his shirt, throws an expensive camera over his shoulder, and declares he is going "out for ice cream." The Giggler spots the camera, sneaks up behind our hero, shoves him, and runs away with the camera -- laughing, of course. Chuck lets him get a about a block away before he raises the Wildey, puts the front sight on ol' Chuckles and blows out his entire chest cavity from, oh, I'd say a half a block away. Needless to say, when Franker learns of the Giggler's death, war is declared.

Of course, ol' Opie doesn't realize who he's messing with. Bronson trots out a WWII era .30-caliber machine gun, takes to the streets and begins thinning the herd. As if there weren't enough miscreants in town already, Franker calls in reinforcements, but to no avail -- Chuck has their number. And Franker? Well, let's just say that he gets his comeuppance in a manner befitting Charles Bronson. Chuck nails him with what appears to be a rocket-propelled anti-tank weapon... from across a living room. You just can't ask for better than that, my friends.

DWIII is the kind of film that really speaks to the human condition. When things get out of hand, you gotta restore order! Simple as that. The beat-down is an overlooked form of balancing the scales, and Charles Bronson knows a thing or two about the art of the beat-down. In many ways, he paved the way for Steven Seagal and his own unique style of "fist justice." Seriously, this film deserves its own study guide. It is, though some may argue against this on grounds of good taste and quality production values, a postmodern treatise on violence at its most basic level. The moral of the story is that when evil encroaches, you shoot it with a rocket launcher. I celebrate that idea, friends, and you should, too!

Of course, it's not for everyone. If you can sit through DWIII and not come away wrapped up in some kind of primal glee, then you simply can't be reached. Tell you what: If you can find me another movie that deals with the delicate balance of society and the criminal justice system, and has a guy getting shot with a rocket launcher across a living room, then by all means, go see that instead.

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 Clemenza's Ratings Key:

 5.0: A drop of bliss

 4.0-4.9: Touchdown!
 3.0-3.9: Close, but...
 2.0-2.9: Box of Rocks
 1.1-1.9: Time bandit
 0.0-1.0: Soul scarring
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