The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Death Wish 3 (1985)

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The second of two Charles Bronson films featured in our week long celebration of Golan-Globus is Death Wish 3, the third of five films in the series. Though the sequels are considered far inferior to the original, part three is really, for our purposes, the one that has had the greatest impact on the DTV action genre.

Death Wish 3 has Bronson back as Paul Kersey, in New York to visit an old friend in need of his help. He gets there too late and finds the friend beaten to death. The cops arrest Bronson, and Ed Lauter, the chief inspector, press-gangs Bronson into working for him to clean up the crime ridden neighborhood his friend was beaten to death in. The idea is, he kills the bad guys, and Lauter and his men get the credit. Once Bronson goes back to his dead friend's apartment, the guy's neighbor, Martin Balsam, gives him the lay of the land, and it's only a matter of time before Bronson goes to work.

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This is awesome, the ending especially. Urban warfare carried out by civilians, gangs, and Bronson, with a little help from Lauter. Sure, the action throughout could've been more frequent, but the end was so good it more than made up for it. You have Bronson with a high powered machine gun mowing down gang members like me using a power steamer to clean metal racks that held the pots and pans in the first kitchen I worked in in high school. How do you not love that?

I'm not sure how many more Bronson films I'll do after this one, because he's more of a mainstream theater guy than a DTV guy, but I'm sure I can make exceptions along the way. The guy is just amazing. His work in films like this paved the way for the Dolphs, Seagals, and Van Dammes. Not only that, but the way Golan-Globus amped up the action and turned down the plot, especially at the end, is something these newer guys could think about when picking their next roles. Dolph has done well with Command Performance and Direct Contact, but Seagal with Against the Dark and Van Damme with pretty much everything until Shepherd: Border Patrol aren't looking as hot. I used to make excuses for Seagal and say "well, he's almost 60, we can't blame him for winding down." Not anymore. Bronson made this when he was 64, and it was better than almost everything Seagal has done in the past ten years.

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We've had our share of Ed Lauter sightings at the DTVC, but none better than in this role. I wonder what he thought acting opposite C. Thomas Howell in The Sweeper. It must've been a joke to see Howell trying to play a role that Bronson would've killed ten years before, when Howell was still a runt with a machine gun in Red Dawn. It's a perspective on Lauter I never considered when I reviewed that film, but with Death Wish 3, I couldn't not consider it.

One thing that's really apparent from a movie like this is just how much of an influence Golan-Globus had on the Grand Theft Auto video game series. I would even go as far as to guess that the Belmont district in part III was named after the neighborhood this film was set in. Just the violence and chaos on the streets combined with people trying to carry out everyday tasks like going to the grocery store is so indicative of that game. The one difference, of course, is that the Grand Theft Auto series is about a gray area-- your character kills innocent people, runs over hookers after he sleeps with them, blows up police helicopters with rocket launchers, but still kills bad guys-- while Paul Kersey was a good guy through and through, who just played the part of judge, jury, and executioner, but he would never kill innocent people.

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MST3K fans will love seeing Martin Balsam in here. I know he's known for a lot more than just Mitchell, probably the biggest being Psycho, but are any of those roles as much fun? "Mitchell, nobody likes you, why is that?" Every line he had in this just made me think "He refrigerates his bowling bag?" or "Mitchell, I'm not going to your parents' house for Christmas." Even better, Balsam was playing the WWII vet retiree looking for someone to clean up his neighborhood while Bronson was playing the younger Korean War vet there to do the cleaning, when Balsam's only two years older than Bronson. Awesome.

I imagine eventually I'll have all five Death Wishes reviewed up here, and it is kind of a shame that I've been at this for three and a half years and this is only the first one, but we're working on it. It goes without saying that these are all required viewing, but I think my friend at Movies in the Attic was right in picking this one for this week.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089003/

2 comments:

  1. Without a doubt, THIS is the greatest of all the DEATH WISH films just for the sheer audacity of it. It's so gloriously violent and so happy to be that way, that you can't help but enjoy it (and perhaps it helps to have a few drinks during the slower parts) evem of the whole thing is stupid as can be.

    That scene where Bronson and Lauter just walk down the street, pistols drawn, and gun down one person after another for what feels like 20 minutes is a thing of beauty.

    You're off to a great start with the first two GG films for this series, as they are two of my favorites. Can't wait to see what's next.

    "my, my, my, my Mitchell". Any chance you are going to get to some Joe Don Baker in the future?

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  2. I had forgotten to mention the Ed Lauter Bronson scene at the end, because I went off on that stupid tangent about Lauter in The Sweeper with C. Thomas Howell, so I'm glad you brought that up. I'm also glad you're digging reviews. We'll see about a little Jon Don Baker. I've been meaning to get Ring of Steel up, but it's not out on DVD, so I've been procrastinating buying it on VHS.

    By the way, I love Le Samourai. One of my all time favorite films.

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