Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

“There’s Only One Law…His!”

September 17th, 2010 · 11 Comments

Nights on the road can get a little dull when you’re traveling solo for work—you end up spending a lot of time alone in your hotel room, eating bad food and watching bad TV. But occasionally the Fates show you a little mercy, by offering up some unexpected entertainment. Such was the case during my recent Arizona trip, during which I was able to pass a few joyful hours wrapped up in AMC’s “Bronson Week,” a celebration of the greatest Lithuanian-American action star in Hollywood history.

The movie marathon came along at just the right time, given that I’m currently working on a project about Central and Eastern European immigrants who worked in the coal mines during the early part of the 20th century. (Charles Bronson’s dad was just such a miner; the family name is actually Buchinski.) But more important, the series provided me with excellent fodder for this week’s installment of Bad Movie Friday: the ultra-violent slab of cinematic dreck known as Death Wish 3.

This movie suffers from what I like to call “The Warriors Effect.” After Walter Hill’s classic flick, a whole generation of directors tried to create shabby-chic villains who were equal parts killers and fashion plates. But the director of Death Wish 3, whose previous credits had included Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood, didn’t have the chops to mimic Hill’s neat trick. Instead he gave us one of the most laughably artificial gang leaders ever, Manny Fraker, who sports a reverse mohawk guaranteed to strike fear in no one. An IMDb reviewer neatly sums up the movie’s over-the-top nature:

Hoodlums throw grenades through windows, old men are set on fire, ordinary women fire double-barreled shotguns at punks, cops run through the streets shooting at thugs perched on windows and rooftops who fire back using semi-automatics, this is the universe DW3 takes place in. Eighties cheese (complete with eye-of-the-tiger-ish synth score) meets Bosnia Herzegovina. And it’s supposed to take place somewhere in East NYC. You know it is an outrageous all-out-war action extravaganza you’re watching, when Bronson fires an anti-tank, anti-personnel, armor-piercing rocket launcher inside a living room.

Yet Death Wish 3 also makes me a little sad, due to this factoid I dug up from the book Bronson’s Loose:

The movie was called Death Wish 3 instead of Death Wish III because recent marketing surveys had determined that the average moviegoer could not read Roman numerals.

Does that mean I should’ve titled my thousandth Microkhan post something other than “M”?


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11 Comments so far ↓

  • tsg

    I guess Sylvester Stallone didn’t get that memo and NFL fans are more numerate than average moviegoers.

    Hilarious that three tally marks are considered too potentially puzzling for the typical movie fan. I can (sadly) see subtractive notation posing a challenge for some, but three lines in the sand is about the simplest way to express “3” imaginable.

  • scottstev

    Somehow I don’t think you can fire a browning .30 cal from the hip holding onto the barrel. But aside from that small quibble, the movie looks perfectly cromunlent to me.

  • Jordan


    I was just thinking that as well. The recoil alone would be a bit of a problem, not to mention the heat from the barrel.

    On a different note, the main villain looks like he would be more at home in “A Clockwork Orange” than this monstrosity.

  • ADW

    Oh, how I could just rip in, but…it’s CHARLES BRONSON! I don’t know, maybe it was because I was a kid, but, Dirty Harry, Charles Bronson, Kojak, Barretta, Shaft – they were manly men roaming the gritty streets, saving the vulnerable from evil predators – HELLS YEAH!

    The rug was atrocious, though.

  • tsg

    Also, I do hope Bronson Week included “Once Upon a Time in the West.” For me, Bronson’s most indelible role was the harmonica player in Leone’s masterpiece. This duel scene w/Henry Fonda is one of my favorites in the history all of cinema: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyvzfyqYm_s

  • monkeyball

    Hey, look on the bright side — at least they didn’t have to call it Death Wish Many.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @monkeyball: Now I’m kicking myself trying to think of that Amazonian(?) tribe that only has two numbers–“one” and “more than one.” Lil’ help?

  • monkeyball


  • After Vega$

    […] check out The A.V. Club‘s recent take on Death Wish 3, the subject of last week’s Bad Movie Friday entrant. This line pretty much sums it all up: Everything abhorrent about Death Wish—its inner-city […]

  • Physicist


    Yea, pretty much every culture that I’m aware of uses lines for the first three numbers. Romans, Chinese, Arabic numbers are all lines (vertical for the romans, horizontal for Chinese, and Arabic.) Arabic 2 and 3 are a little stylized by now, but imagine dragging a brush between each of the lines, and you’ll see it.

    It’s only once you get to 4 that numbers become an abstract concept, and the brain/eye can’t immediately “see” the quantity. That’s why dice are pretty uniform across the world and throughout history. You aren’t counting the pips, you’re looking at the shape they make.

    So basically, saying movie audiences can’t understand III as three is like saying they can’t understand red, or big or loud.