Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dude Movies: Death Wish 3

(A word of introduction: Death Wish 3 is not available for rent at Gen X. I know, right? And they call themselves a video store. Hopefully this will shame Mike into stocking what is clearly the greatest cinematic achievement of all time. - madkevin.)

What's it about?
The nearly geriatric Charles Bronson, fresh from having literally his entire extended family killed in the previous two Death Wish movies, drifts into Brooklyn only to find it overrun with roving gangs of criminals, hooligans, ne'er do wells, goons, gangsters, thugs, hoods, toughs, mobsters, punks, ruffians, troublemakers, villans, outlaws, ravagers, racketeers, barbarians, vandals, scofflaws, desperados, vandals, hustlers, wrongdoers, and Gavan O'Herlihy.*

Any chicks in the movie?
Not just any chick, but Marina Sirtis, aka Deanna Troy from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Thankfully, her character doesn't speak English in Death Wish 3, so you never have to hear her tell Bronson that she "senses danger".** Good news: You get to see her naked! Bad news: She gets raped to death.

Awesomeness factor?
Unquantifiable. Some movies are bad. Some movies are so bad that they start to become entertaining. Then there's Death Wish 3, a movie so indescribably, painfully dreadful it rips through the very fabric of space-time itself to become possibly the most brilliant movie ever made. There's no sense in treating Death Wish 3 like a normal movie made by sane human people, so I'm just going to break it down into bullet points:

1) The score is done by Jimmy Page. Yes, that Jimmy Page. Which you'd think would be cool, right? Unfortunately, this was Jimmy Page during some weird period in the mid-80s when he said to himself "I wonder what these synthesizer thingimabobs are all about?" So it's a score composed mainly of tone-deaf run-throughs of various Roland patch settings which I'm sure sounded really avant-garde to Jimmy but comes across like Tangerine Dream smashing keyboards with their foreheads while kicking a guitar with their feet.

2) Charles Bronson was sixty-four years old when he made Death Wish 3. Now, don't get me wrong: I love Charles Bronson. Once Upon A Time In The West is the best Western ever, period, end declarative statement. We're talking about a dude who was a Magnificent Seven, a Dirty Dozen and a Great Escaper. But Chuck wasn't exactly spry even in his prime, and by 1985 he was looking and moving like, well, a dude in his 60s. This does not phase Death Wish 3 which, after all, was made at the absolute height of of Reaganism. Most of the crop of revenge pictures made in the wake of the success of the original Death Wish were not-so-lightly veiled racist wish fufillment fantasies - wouldn't those inner cities be awesome if we could get rid of all those unsightly minorities? Death Wish 3, on the other hand, embraces minorites... just as long as they're as old as Chuck. Which brings me to point number three:

3) Death Wish 3 is action movie porn for senior citizens. OK, so Chuck shows up in Brooklyn, which in the weirdo universe of the movie is being over-run by a gang seemingly culled from Pat Benatar's gang in the "Love Is A Battlefield" video: lots of young people wearing bandanas, cut-off sleeve denim vests and that super-gay styling Hollywood gives actors when they want to signify "punk" but the actors don't want to get an actual haircut. For some reason, this gang acts like they're eight years old, openly hassling women and non-gang dudes by throwing rocks at them and other acts better suited to Dennis The Menace. The Warriors they ain't, is what I'm saying. Meanwhile, literally every other character in the movie is either a scared-but-proud minority, a senior citizen, or both***. There's an old Jewish couple in the movie that is so old and so Jewish that you keep expecting Zero Mostel to sell them shares in Springtime For Hitler. When Chuck starts cleaning up the town, it isn't revenge so much as open disgust at the young people of today (of 1985), with their hair and their music and their hipitty-hopping and their potty mouths. Chuck'll wash that mouth out, young man. With bullets.

4) And then there's this:

Note that the bald guy with him? The "I owed you one, dood!" guy? He's supposed to be a cop. Eat it, Miranda rights!

Anyway, this is already the longest review I've ever written and I didn't even talk about Martin Balsalm, Alex "Bill From Bill & Ted" Winter, or Bronson's excellent choice in weaponry. Some things you just owe it to yourself to watch.

Mitigating Factor?
Do not, under any circumstances, watch Death Wish 4. You have been warned.

* Of all the myraid of reasons to watch Death Wish 3, Gavan O'Herlihy should be right at the very top. The dude sports a reverse mohawk with Adam Ant facepaint and a big red stripe down the center of his shaved skull, so that he literally resembles a dickhead. As in, he looks like he has a dick for a head. People talk about fearless actors, but you don't see Philip Seymour Hoffman walking around as Penishead.

** I mean, seriously. The Enterprise is surrounded by fucking Romulan warships or whatever and you sense danger? Well no shit, Kreskin. Way to contribute to the team.

*** OK, not quite. There's also the lawyer played by Deborah Raffin (who, by the way, has the best imdb page ever: Jacqueline Susan's Once Is Not Enough! Larry Cohen's God Told Me To! The Goldie Hawn replacement for the TV series of Foul Play! Scanners II: The New Order! What, American Ninja to good for you?) who exists in the movie as the most perfunctory love interest imaginable for Chuckles. Even Death Wish 3 understands that nobody in the entire known universe wants to see Chuck get it on, no matter how comely the lass, so the love scene tastefully blacks out before you see any of Chuck's, um, folds. Not so tastefully, the very next scene shows Raffin in a car saying something like "Aren't you glad you let me in?" when Chuck turns away for a second, giving O'Herlihy an opening to run up to the car, punch her full in the face and put the car in neutral, causing it roll down a hill, smash into another car and EXPLODE.

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