“Death Wish” Week: Bronson Takes on His Greatest Adversary, The Giggler, in “Death Wish 3”

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Kevin: We started our look back at the Charles Bronson “Death Wish” sequels with, obviously, “Death Wish II,” in which the world’s most trigger-happy architect tracks down his daughter’s killers by randomly walking around Los Angeles and somehow coming across one of them every single night. With no more family members left to avenge, “Death Wish 3” picks up with Paul Kersey visiting an old Korean War buddy, who for some reason neglected to mention that he lived in ground zero of an urban warzone. Let’s see how high a body count Kersey can rack up on what was just supposed to be his vacation:

Where is Paul Kersey now? Technically back in New York City, although based on what we see you’d be forgiven for thinking that Kersey had time-traveled to some future post-apocalyptic wasteland.  We do find out though that since the events of “Death Wish II,” Kersey has shot two “mugger-rapists” in Chicago and four gang members in Kansas City. Wait, was he just visiting Kansas City on business and decided to kill some local criminals just for the heck of it? Where is the movie about that?

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How long does he get to enjoy some happiness and normalcy in his life before it is all ripped away? About six minutes, the length of time it takes his bus to get from La Guardia to his friend’s apartment.

Which family members and/or friends does he have to avenge? Since Kersey had no more immediate family to kill off, rather than move on to third cousins, “Death Wish 3” continues the motif that just knowing Paul Kersey is enough to get you killed. This time it is an old war buddy who just happens to be getting beaten to death right as Kersey shows up for a visit.

Which scum of the earth find themselves on the receiving end of Kersey’s vigilante justice, and is a future recognizable actor among their ranks? A group that holds this one six-block stretch of the city in its iron fist despite the fact that, outside of the constant killing and raping, they could easily have been right at home in one of the many breakdancing movies at that time (I honestly expected Lucinda Dickey and Boogaloo Shrimp to make an appearance)…

… especially the appropriately named “The Giggler,” whose death gets an equally appropriate anguished reaction from his comrades-in-arms:

And yes, this gang also includes a young Alex Winter, and that alone should make the fact that the residents of this neighborhood live in such fear of these dorks a huge source of embarrassment for them.

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What is Kersey’s weapon of choice? What have you got? He uses everything from a standard six-shooter, to this fucking hand canon …

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… to a belt-fed WWII-era machine gun. I found it amusing that during the climactic shootout, Kersey doesn’t even think to offer one of his many weapons to a neighbor, who is avenging the murder and rape of his wife with the saddest “West Side Story”-looking zip gun you’ve ever seen.

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On a scale of 1 to 10, how much of a shithole is the city Kersey is currently residing in?  Forget 10, can we go up to a million? “This isn’t a neighborhood, it’s a war,” says one of the top cops in the precinct, and he’s not exaggerating since this place looks like Kabul after several airstrikes but with even worse infrastructure, including unpaved roads, constant graffiti, and the rubble of destroyed buildings dotting every street. I have to assume that the only reason people still choose to live here is that New Jersey is even worse by comparison.

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Does he have a love interest, and does she survive until the end of the film? 1) Yes, a public defender played by Deborah Raffin, and 2) Does this answer your question (2:00 mark)?

Honestly this has got to be one of the most pointless romantic subplots in film history. They have maybe two scenes together before they make love, and then she is immediately killed off to, I guess, underscore once again the fact that Paul Kersey can’t get close to anyone without them dying horribly. If nothing else though, we get a close-up view of what a deep, passionate kiss from Charles Bronson looked like (although to be fair he apparently preferred doing these kinds of scenes with his beloved wife Jill Ireland):

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How worthless are the cops and justice system? I think we’ve found a group of cops so useless and incompetent that even the Broward County police can look down on them. Despite the fact that his friend lives in a building where home invasions are a normal occurrence, the cops for some reason immediately arrest Kersey – an elderly friend of the victim – for his murder after of course getting there too late and finding him standing over the body. The only time we see the police take a weapon off the streets is when they confiscate it from the stereotypical Jewish couple, who immediately afterward are attacked in their apartment and have their TV stolen during “Wheel of Fortune.”

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And in typical “Death Wish” style, when Kersey asks what the cops are doing considering the average resident has an 82 percent chance of getting raped or murdered every time they go to the corner market, he’s told “They only enforce the parking laws.”

Does Kersey still have zero problem living in a house/apartment where someone close to him was murdered and/or raped? Yep, as soon as he gets out of jail he immediately exercises a little-known loophole in New York residential law, whereby if your best friend finds your murdered body in your apartment and plans on avenging your death, he gets to stay there rent-free.

Does Kersey let his extracurricular activities affect his work? For the only time in the series, he never so much as opens a blueprint, but again technically he is on vacation. I wouldn’t be surprised if he put in a few calls to the office off-screen though.

Best kill: Forget Chekov’s gun, in “Death Wish 3” we have Chekov’s rocket launcher, which Kersey finally uses on gang leader Fraker at the very end, which would have been a just punishment merely for Fraker’s ridiculous reverse Mohawk.

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Best one-liner: None that I remember, Bronson does his talking with his trigger finger in this one.

Overall consensus: While they both take place in New York City, “Death Wish 3” is the Cannon Group studio’s version of the original: violent, ridiculous, sleazy, and with zero social commentary. It’s easy to see why it’s now a camp classic, although even taken as a cartoonish action flick, director Michael Winner’s seeming enjoyment of depicting innocent people being raped and murdered still leaves a bad taste in the mouth. But while Cannon obviously had another installment ready to go on account of the fact that the two Chucks – Bronson and Norris – were keeping the studio afloat, for the fourth entry they traded out Winner with British director Lee J. Thompson, director of “The Guns of Navarone” and the original “Cape Fear.” Perhaps he’ll bring the series back to reality with our next film: “Death Wish 4: The Crackdown.”

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One thought on ““Death Wish” Week: Bronson Takes on His Greatest Adversary, The Giggler, in “Death Wish 3”

  1. Exploding cars and a neighborhood-wide standing ovation for gunning someone down in the street – what a time to be alive.

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