Bronson is an urban liberal who becomes a vigilante in search of the gang of thugs who raped his daughter and raped and murdered his wife. — Genre: Feature Film-Action/Adventure — Rating: R — Release Date: 8-AUG-2006 — Media T... more »ype: DVD« less
"This is the first of several films featuring Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey, a modern day urban equivalent of Robin Hood, Zorro, and the Lone Ranger. When initially released, Death Wish was immediately controversial as was Dirty Harry (1971). Audiences tended to be divided between those who were offended by what they considered to be excessive violence and those who (like Harry Callahan and Paul Kersey) had lost confidence in society's willingness and/or ability to respond effectively to violent crime. After seeing each of the two films for the first time, I vividly recall joining those around me in the theatre as they rose and cheered...and continued to applaud for several minutes. (By the way, that was the same audience reaction when I first saw Walking Tall.) I asked myself, "What's going on here? What's this all about?" At least in the larger U.S. cities 30 years ago, residents had become totally fed up with traditional law enforcement initiatives. It was no longer safe to walk the streets at night. Even more dangerous to do so in public parks. Homes were robbed while people worked during the day. Many of the same homes were robbed again later after insurance coverage replaced the articles previously stolen. Racial animosities, drug abuse, and a widespread contempt for institutional authority all contributed to such problems. When we first meet Kersey, he is in all respects a gentle man. A successful architect who is happily married (Joanna, Hope Lange) and a proud father of his beloved daughter, he is carefully positioned as a law-abiding citizen. To repeat, a gentle man. Over time, after his wife and daughter are brutally attacked by thugs who escape punishment, Kersey commits himself to ridding the city of such creatures. In fact, he seeks them out in the most likely areas (e.g. public parks and on subways), coldly and systematically killing as many as he can. Of course, other law abiding citizens are wholly supportive of his efforts but law enforcement officials correctly fear the possible implications of such vigilantism. Director Michael Winner does a brilliant job of orchestrating Kersey's crusade with efforts by detective Frank Ochoa (Vincent Gardenia) to identify and then capture the public hero. Ochoa seems torn between admiration of such heroism and obligations to end it. Many of those who live in areas plagued by violent crime admire this movie. Others quite properly have concerns about anyone who "goes outside the law," as Kersey obviously does. Who among vigilantes will be Paul Kerseys? And who among them will be Travis Bickles? Good question."
New York in the 70's WAS that bad
Rocco Dormarunno | Brooklyn, NY | 09/03/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As late as the 1990s, a midnight walk through Central Park or Prospect Park or Riverside Drive or just about any secluded area in New York City was tantamount to asking to be victimized. So to those skeptics who can't believe New York was that bad in the 1970s, I say "Believe it!"
Years before Peter Finch, as Howard Beale in NETWORK, chanted, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!", Charles Bronson's Paul Kersey was well beyond that point. DEATH WISH, among other things is a gritty, unflinching look at the violence urban dwellers all over America faced in the 1970s. Paul Kersey, an Upper West Sider, discovers that his wife has been murdered, and his daughter raped and beaten by intruders. In an interesting twist on movie convention, Kersey doesn't seek revenge by going after the men who destroyed his family: he goes after any and all criminals. Bronson's portrayal of an average guy who, in stages, progresses from amateur to super-vigilante, is very credible. The psychological complexities are intriguing. On one level, he can't let go of the past, so he continues his rampage. However, at the same time, he redecorates his apartment and berates his son-in-law for living in the past. But it makes sense. His daytime self wants to be normal, his night-time--darker--side is bloodthirsty.
There is also an ethical complexity to this film. We all know, somewhere in our moral calculus, that vigilantism only promotes chaos and anarchy. We know we need a police department to enforce our laws. But what happens when that law enforcement is too bogged down by red tape, overwork, and apathy? Paul Kersey did seek justice through proper channels, harrassing the police to move more quickly on the case. It was when that failed, and after a trip out west (where cowboy justice once thrived), that he took the law into his own hands. Again, a very logical reason for his becoming a vigilante. And the viewer cannot help but root for him, no matter how wrong we should think it is.
DEATH WISH is not just a bloodbath thriller film (although the violence was pretty graphic for its time). It is a disturbing and complex movie, and an accurate look back at a time when urban life was so bad, that even Jim Morrison had to shout, "Save our cities!""
Bernard Goetz's Mentor
reader 1001 | 04/01/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Paul Kersy (Charles Bronson) --resident of Manhattan's upper west side in the early 1970's-- comes home one day to find his wife murdered and his daughter so brutally raped that she becomes institutionalized. Later Paul decides to make himself a regular target for street criminals, only he fights back with deadly force. Paul doesn't actually provoke the criminals who attack him, he merely presents a apparently passive target of opportunity. After a while Paul's activities have a deterrent effect on street crime to the embarrassment the DA, the police, and the city politicians. So the police launch an investigation to find who is killing criminals and put a stop to it. Eventually with good detective work, the police find Paul, but there they a political problem. They know Paul will be a hero, so they can't arrest him, they just have to make him stop, and this they do by cutting a deal for him to leave town. Bronson's performance is somewhat wooden, but effective. Unquestionably this film exploits its audience, you can't help but cheer for Paul, loathe his attackers, and resent the authorities. The movie was and is controversial. The liberals hate it, the conservatives love it. The move has been attacked as exaggerating the danger of urban crime. It doesn't. I lived in the very area and at the very time of the movie. Virtually everyone I knew (including myself) had some kind of incident with a street criminal. The movie is not realistic with regard to what would have happened to Paul Kersy once found out. He would have been arrested and charged with illegal possession of a firearm, and other felonies. He would have been attacked on the editorial page of the New York Times, by Mayor Lindsey, the police commissioner and slew of newspaper columnists and TV commentators. The families of the slain criminals would have sued him, most likely with William Kunstler as the lawyer. There would have been a relentless and effective campaign of personal destruction directed at Paul culminating in a trial. So in this sense the movie fails as social commentary, because it doesn't confront the real issues of crime and punishment and urban politics. But it succeeds splendidly as an emotional cathartic. For this I give it five stars."
Raw & gripping
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 08/09/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Charles Bronson convincingly plays Paul Kersey, a New York architect who's family is attacked by three horrible thugs. The violence in the early part of the film is brutal, but sets the stage for his motive in becoming a vigilante, and puts the audience in the mindset to empathize with his actions.The pacing is fast, and though it has that '70's look, this one doesn't get stale. Vincent Gardenia is excellent as the police chief, and look for Jeff Goldblum's screen debut as one of the three thugs. Herbie Hancock's score is an interesting blend of avant-garde classical and jazz.Director Michael Winner made two other films with Bronson that are favorites..."The Mechanic" and "Chato's Land". Taut and inventive, I watch each of them every few years with renewed fascination."
The original and the best!!!
Rowdy Boy | New York | 02/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although, I was only exactly four years old on July 24, 1974, the date in which this movie was released but from all the accounts I have read from that time,and even from some of the reviews written here already, New York City`s crime rate was rather high. This movie tapped into what people`s feeelings were as far as the crime issue goes during that time. Unless you lived in that era, it is hard to see how a film like this could be so controversial at the time. But the very thought of an ordinary citizen taking the law into his own hands was unheard of. After many years of insipid sequels and countless imitators, Death Wish still shines like a gem. This is one of Bronson`s best performances. He is the peaceable middle aged, longish haired,liberal architect Paul kersey until his world is shattered. Scenes that are noteworthy of Bronson`s acting are; a)When kersey is waiting at the hospital withis son in law, Jack about news relating to his wife and daughter. b) When he receives news that his wife has died, he starts to break down. c) Before plugging his first victm, kersey is overcome with fear. Does he shoot or hand over the money. The former option wins out and after shooting his would be mugger, Kersey is just watching his victim writhe in pain . He is in a state of hesitancy and shock before he hightails it back to his apartment. d)Whe he arrives at his apartment, Kersey feels nauseous and weak from what he has just done. The liberal architect turned vigilante races for the toilet and vomits. The fim explores kersey`s transformation into a vigilante who becomes more cocksure of himself . He rides on a subway train carrying a bag full of groceries and in a diner, he counts out large amount of bills openly in order to lure muggers into his trap. And another favorite scene of mine is when kersey and some of his associates are sitting at a resturaunt, there is a televised press conference in which the NYPD commissioner is urging the vigilante to desist from his one man crusade and turn himself into the police. The patrons are all attentive to the Tv set, unaware the vigilante is amongst them. Our hero simply smirks at the commissioners suggestion to turn himself in while he`s downing his dinner, almost as in a taunt; `No, let`s see if you can try and get me.' Eventually, the police do get their man after Kersey is injured by muggers during his vigilante quest. Inspector Ochoa orders Kersey at his hospital bed to leave NYC, but it doesnt mean that Kersey won`t stop his his crusade. Once he arrives at the main Chicago train sation, he sees a bunch of skells harassing a young woman. Kersey goes over to help her gather her luggage which was strewn all over the place by the skells. The skells see this and start mocking him. Our vigilante smiles and points an imaginary gun in their direction. This is a great movie and a provactive one at that. Many critics were split in their opinions with no middle ground. They either loved it or hated it. And the public flocked to this movie in droves. It was one of the top ten movies in `74. Unfortunatley, the lameness of the sequels and countless imitators have diluted the impact of this classic somewhat. But it still remains a gripping, intriguing movie. This is one of Charles Bronson`s best performances and he is very convincing and believable as the conscientious objector turned vigilante. His later performances in the subsequent sequels were as emotional amd involved as a wet dish rag. Steven Keats is excellent as the beleagured son in law, Jack, and Vincent Gardenia shines as the police inspector Frank Ochoa who is determined to apprehend the vigilante."