Paul Kersey has come back to New York City after being banned since the events of the first film to visit his Korean War friend Charley, who is attacked by The Giggler, Angel and Hermosa in his apartment. The residents of the apartment building hear commotion and one couple who lives in the apartment, Mr. and Mrs. Emil, call the police. Paul arrives as Charley collapses dead in his arms. The police mistakenly arrest Paul for the murder. At the police station, police chief Lt. Richard Shriker recognizes Paul as "Mr. Vigilante". Shriker lays down the law before Paul is taken to a holding cell. In the same cell is Manny Fraker, leader of the Street Punk Gang who's members attacked and killed Charley. He and Paul fight. When he is released, Manny threatens Paul. Manny arrives back in East New York where the Street Punk Gang controls the neighborhood and has all of the residents in fear of the gang. Manny kills a member of his gang, Hector, for him trying to take over the gang while he was in jail. The police receive daily reports about the increased rate of crime. Lt. Shriker makes a deal with Paul that he will release him from prison and allow him to kill all the members of the Street Punk Gang that he wants, as long as he informs Lt. Shriker of any gang activity he hears about so the police can get a bust and make news. Paul moves into Charley's apartment in East New York. The building is populated by mostly elderly tenants terrified of the Street Punk Gang. They include Bennett Cross, a World War 2 veteran and Charley’s friend, plus Emil and Erica Kaprov, an elderly Jewish couple, and a young Hispanic couple, Rodriguez and his wife Maria. After a few violent muggings, Paul goes into action. He buys a used car as bait. When the Street Punk Car Thieves try to break into the car, Paul shoots them. Paul protects Maria from the gang twice, but is unable to save her a third time. She is raped and later dies as a result of her injuries. Paul orders two weapons, a .475 Wildey Magnum and a LAWS missle launcher. He spends the afternoon with Bennett handloading ammunition for it. He then tests the gun when The Giggler, steals his camera bag and Paul is applauded by the neighborhood after he shoots him. Lt. Shriker and the police take the credit the next day when they investigate the scene. Paul also throws a member of the Street Punk Gang named The Cuban off a roof one night as he is attacked by him and another Street Punk as he tried to follow Manny. A possible love interest develops with public defender Kathryn Davis. She is moving out of the city and Paul offers to take her to dinner. While waiting in his car, Kathryn is knocked unconscious by Manny and the car is pushed into oncoming traffic. It slams into another car and explodes, killing Kathryn. Lt. Shriker places Paul under protective custody, fearing he is in too deep. Bennett takes matters into his hands with a German MG-42. After his taxi shop is blown up, he tries to get even but his gun jams. The gang cripples Bennett. Paul is taken by Lt. Shriker to the hospital, where he escapes after Bennett tells him where to find a .30 Browning 1919 machine gun. Paul and Rodriguez collect weapons and proceed to mow down many of the Street Punks before running out of ammo. Other neighbors begin fighting back as Manny sends in more reinforcements. Lt. Shriker decides to help and he and Paul take down much of the gang together. Paul goes back to the apartment to collect more ammo, but Manny finds him there. Lt. Shriker arrives just in time and shoots Manny, who falls to the floor and appears dead but was wearing a bullet proof vest. Lt. Shriker is wounded in the arm. As Paul calls for an ambulance, Manny gets back up and turns his gun on the two men. As Lt. Shriker distracts Manny, Paul blows up Manny with his LAWS missle launcher. As Manny's girlfriend screams in horror, what remains of the gang rush to the scene and see Manny's smoldering remains. One of the other gang members attempts to retaliate, but Manny's girlfriend stops him. Surrounded by the angry crowds of neighbors ready to fight back even more, the gang realizes they've lost and flee the scene. As the neighbors cheer in celebration and with police sirens in the distance, Lt. Shriker lets Paul go. Paul gives a look of appreciation and takes off.
- Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey
- Deborah Raffin as Kathryn Davis
- Ed Lauter as Lt. Richard Shriker
- Martin Balsman as Bennet Cross
- Gavin O'Herlihy as Manny Fraker
- Kirk Taylor as The Giggler
- Alex Winter as Hermosa
- Marinia Sirtis as Maria
- Ricco Ross as The Cuban
- Tony Britts as Tulio
- Tony Spiridakis as Angel
- Alan Cooke and Bob Dysinger as the Street Punk Car Thieves
- Francis Duke as Charley
Although Death Wish 3 takes place in New York City, the movie was also filmed in London because it was cheaper. As a result, some of the extras (both police and gang members) were British. When filming was complete, Michael Winner solicited the help of U.S. Air Force military personnel stationed at High Wycombe Air Station in the UK to provide dubbing with their New York accents for the accents of the British extras.
Weapons used in the film include a .475 Wildey Magnum handgun, a .38 caliber snubnose revolver, a German World War 2 MG-42 machine gun, a Browning .30 machine gun and an anti-tank LAWS rocket launcher.
When first released in theaters, Death Wish 3 was greeted with primarily negative reviews, particularly from critics like Gene Siske and Roger Ebert. Some lambasted the film for sadistic, overly-violent content and the fact that a 64-year-old Charles Bronson was thrown into a Rambo-like situation. Lenord Maltin panned the film: "Same old stuff; Bronson's 'ordinary guy' character is no longer convincing, since his entire immediate family was wiped out by the end of Part 2."
In recent years, it has gathered a cult-following, possibly due to its over-the-top nature, including lengthy action scenes, (particularly the shoot-'em-up finale), stylized violence, cheesy dialogue, and memorable one-liners. While it currently holds an average rating of 5.6 at IMDB, it has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Death Wish 3 was made into a video game in 1986. Death Wish 3 (Video Game).