Monday, July 14, 2008


Death Wish is a 1974 action-crime-drama film based on the 1972 novel by Brian Garfield. The film was directed by Michael Winner and stars Charles Bronson. The film was a major commercial success and generated a movie franchise lasting four sequels over a twenty-year period. The film was widely denounced by critics for advocating vigilantism and unlimited punishment to criminals. It established Bronson as a major box office draw in the United States.

Paul Kersey (Bronson) is a liberal architect living in New York City. One day, a group of drug-crazed thugs break into his apartment while he's gone, killing his wife Joanna (Hope Lange) and brutally raping his married daughter, leaving her comatose. When the police are unable to find the culprits, Kersey arms himself and begins patrolling the streets, killing muggers and thieves as he encounters them. While his obsessive search for street justice sickens him at first, in time Kersey begins to enjoy it and becomes a hunted man himself, as Police Detective Frank Ochoa (Vincent Gardenia) tries to find the man who is doing the police's job for them, and a bit too well. Jeff Goldblum made his screen debut as one of the lunatics who attacks Joanna.

I don't know why I expected a 70's movie starring Charles Bronson to take itself seriously. I remember watching parts of Death Wish as a kid but I wanted to watch the whole thing and appreciate it as an adult. After seeing recent movies like The Brave One and Death Sentence, both of which were good, I wanted to see the original that created them.

Unlike those two movies, Death Wish establishes itself in a universe that is not reality. The muggers in the movie act almost like cartoon characters instead of real people. Running through the streets with their tongues waging out of their mouths like the coyote chasing after the road runner. The shooting comes down to "bang bang" and the person is dead. Not much else builds around them. No conflict, except for one scene when Bronson gets awkwardly cut. The movie also takes a long time to get off the ground. There is just too many scenes of Bronson at his job and doing his work. Worrying about his daughter and talking with his son-in-law about it. Put together with a bunch of bad editing and music.

So yeah, the movie is cheesy. But what do you expect from a gun crazy movie from the 70's. Despite that though, you can't deny that Bronson is the only one who could have carried that gun and he does it well. I also liked Gardenia as the detective who tracks onto Bronson pretty quickly. I doubt I will watch any of the movie's many sequels and the movies I listed above, that it spawned, are better and more interesting. As a cheesy 70's movie though, Death Wish works.

Death Wish is a 5 out of 10.



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