Death Wish (1974): Breakdown by Rutledal
Charles Bronson’s family gets murdered, and he takes revenge on every criminal in New York.
Death Wish is the third and best film that resulting from Charles Bronson and director Michael Winner’s (The Mechanic) many collaborations in the 70’s and 80’s. Based on Brian Garfield’s novel by the same name, the movie treats its source material like Rambo treated the Burmese soldiers at the end of Rambo. Turning the tale of an average man forced to take the law into his own hands when the police fail to do so into a movie about Charles Bronson taking the law into his own hands. In other words, your usual Charles Bronson movie.
While it’s not the original “father gets wronged by gang and takes revenge” vigilante movie it certainly is the movie that made the (now beaten to death) movie formula popular. If it hadn’t been for Death Wish we might never have seen movies like Commando, The Punisher or Vigilante. It’s also the movie that gave Charles Bronson his international breakthrough, so without it we wouldn’t have had movies like Death Hunt or 10 to Midnight either.
The movie starts of with a nice trip to Bahamas, or some place that’s Bahamas-ish. Bronson and his wife are on a holiday having fun and junk, but fortunately it’s soon replaced with the crime filled, gritty and gray streets of New York City. It doesn’t take very long before Bronson’s wife and daughter get attacked by Jeff Goldblum and his band of merry rapists.
Shortly thereafter, Bronson receives the news and rushes to the hospital, only to learn that his wife has passed away. It just gets worse because we are soon introduced to his son-in-law, Jack. I fucking hate Jack. I hate him more than any other movie character. He’s a whiny, complaining schmuck who just whines and complains, and then whines some more.
“Whine, whine, whine.”
Moving on, Bronson takes an assignment that lets him leave New York and travel to Arizona to work. Paul Kersey, Bronson’s character, is an architect by the way. However he ends up spending just as much, if not more, time at the local gun club’s firing range, and when he leaves he brings a gun home with him. I’ll let you figure out where the movie goes from there.
Order has been restored to the universe.
When it comes to Bronson movies I place this second only to Once Upon a Time in the West, and for reference I place that one amongst the top 5 movies of all time. So Death Wish is a pretty damn good movie. It takes a little while to set up story, but the payoff afterward is more than worth it. It also sports an awesome and really stylish soundtrack that sets a perfect mood for the movie. While some of its sequels might be slightly more entertaining it’s superior to them in every other way, setting a good standard for a pretty damn cool series. (That is, if you ignore the fifth one. But that’s for another time.)
[HOW BAD-ASS IS THE MAIN CHARACTER?]
Charles Bronson is Paul Kersey
Paul Kersey is easily the most badass architect ever, not that that’s saying much, but he really is. It does however take him a heck of long time to become a badass. At first there is not really anything badass about him, except the obvious fact that he is Charles Bronson. In fact, he is even a conscientious objector. Instead of badass stuff he does the following:
– works some more
– asks the police if they’ve found the killers
– visits his daughter at the loony bin
– works a little more
– listens to his son-in-law whine
– and finally works some more
This is, of course, before he gets his hands on a gun and then all of a sudden he is turned into a badass vigilante. He’s a calm, frightening, vengeance machine that serves justice trough the barrel of his gun. Well, at the end it’s just Bronson being Bronson, but has Bronson ever played Bronson better?
[THE BODY COUNT: 11]
There is the initial vigilante movie trigger kill which is the death of Kersey’s wife. After that, Kersey does what he does best: Design houses. I mean, kill lowlifes and criminals. In all, Bronson kills 10 scumbags.
[MOST SATISFYING ASS-KICKING]
Thug Tastes The Sock Of Bronson [not a typo]
After the attack on his wife and daughter, Bronson decides to get himself a little protection. Since he’s a conscientious objector he can’t get himself a gun so he takes out two rolls of quarters and fills a sock with them. The very same night a hoodlum tries to stick him up, only to get surprised by a quarter-filled sock in the face. He runs away empty handed and Bronson runs home to drink some Scotch. (I told you it wasn’t a typo.)
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
This movie is as straight as they come. The only time it comes even close to being gay is when you see Jeff Goldblum’s ass, but only because he takes his pants off to rape Bronson’s daughter (or rather, “paint her face”). In fact, it’s so straight that the asexual icon, Bronson himself, kisses a woman and tries to have sex with her at a beach. For the record it was his wife. No dice. No dice at all.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
In a vigilante movie having a vagina is like being on death row, no matter what you do you are going to die. Or just get severely raped. This movie manages to squeeze in both consequences. Bronson’s wife gets killed and his daughter into raped into catatonia [Editor’s Note: Literally].
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
Two scumbags are making their way trough a subway until they come to the cart where Bronson is seated. Slowly everyone else has left the cart and it’s only Bronson and the scumbags left. One of them walks over to Bronson and pulls a knife on him. Bronson shoots him trough the newspaper, stands up and guns down the other one before walking off the train. All the while cool as a cucumber.
Since the movie was scripted as a serious drama movie about a man pushed over the edge it’s not loaded with one-liners, but it’s fairly even between a line during the final shootout and the one I chose. The other one might sound better on paper, but since Bronson is barely able to speak when he utters the line during the shootout and subsequently falls down a pile of stairs due the exhaustion straight afterward, I picked this one.
Paul: What have we become? What do you call people who, when they’re faced with a condition or fear, do nothing about it, they just run and hide?
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
The only good criminal is a dead criminal.
[THE CHECKLIST: 09 outta 25]
[ ] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[ ] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[ ] Crotch Attack
[ ] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[X] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[ ] Giant Explosion(s)
[ ] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)**
[ ] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[ ] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)***
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[ ] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[ ] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[ ] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[ ] Torture Sequence(s)
[X] Unnecessary Sequel [Death Wish II]
[ ] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice
* I’m not sure what you would call the location of the final shootout.
** It’s not on the spot improvised, but it’s homemade.
*** The whole movie reflects the crime rise that was taking place in America at the time because of economical…oh, fuck it, it’s not like you know what I’m talking about anyways.