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TOP 500 REVIEWERon August 10, 2013
The first installment of the Death Wish series is probably the most important, as it explains how and why Paul Kersey became the Vigilante. The film opens with the violent rape of his wife and daughter. His daughter, the only survivor is left in a psychologically induced coma. Meanwhile A land developer friend of his gives him a gun as a gift and sign of friendship for closing a deal on a architecture design for a new development on the west coast. At first Paul keeps taking the gun out and staring at it not sure what to do with it. But a deep feeling in his gut keeps haunting him until he knows at last what he must do. This is when We get to see Paul Kersy take his first life in an act of pure frustration against the violent criminals that roam the streets of his city.

We get to see the human side of Paul Kersey more deeply in this first death wish film, and the impact his first killing has on him. Upon his first killing Paul vomits as it sinks in what he has just done. His hands shake and he is in a cold sweat, his guts in a knot.

Paul soon realizes that the only way to stop the sick feeling from his first killing is to keep killing more violent criminals, and that is exactly what he does. After each killing Paul becomes more relaxed with his new life as a Vigilante and becomes more confident towards continuing the killings. One by one Paul Kersey takes out his gun and rids the world of the scum bags that hold his city in fear. But it is Paul who ends up being feared by the criminals of the streets.

They know he is out there, they know he is looking for them. Every crime they do could be their last as the Vigilante is coming for them.
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on January 31, 2004
Although Charles Bronson has appeared in a fistful of genuine classic movies (The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, Once Upon A Time in the West, and The Dirty Dozen) it is this urban crime/revenge thriller that is most often associated with him. Paul Kersey is a New York based 'bleeding heart liberal' architect that has his life destroyed when a trio of thugs (one played by future star Jeff Goldblum) assault his wife and daughter. His wife dies and his daughter slowly sinks into a catatonic state. Kersey's rage grows and, after acquiring a pistol during a business trip to Arizona, he begins killing muggers while wading through the crime choked streets of New York. Director Michael Winner handles the material in as blunt a fashion as possible, presenting Kersey as a heroic Everyman doing what anyone would want to do under similar circumstances. Yet it is all salvaged by a wonderfully nuanced performance by Charles Bronson. At the time of its release, critics complained that the blue collar looking actor was terribly miscast as an upper class white collar victim turned victimizer. Yet the actor handles it well, by the film's end he has become the character and was thus permanantly type cast in the public's mind as the vigilante that cleaned up New York (although he would not play the actual role again until a series of lurid sequels made almost ten years later). While Death Wish is an essential for Charles Bronson fans (I cannot think of one who wouldn't want to have a copy), the actual subject matter was better handled in the Clint Eastwood thriller Dirty Harry (1971) and its 1973 vigilante themed sequel, Magnum Force.
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on August 23, 2003
THIS MOVIE IS SO SUPERIOR TO ALL OF THE 'REVENGE' FLICKS IT SPAWNED THAT MOST OF THEM DONT DESERVE MENTION IN THE SAME BREATH.
DESPITE WHAT A LOT OF CRITICS SPEW, GIVEN THE RIGHT RESOURSES BRONSON IS A HECK OF AN ACTOR, AND THIS FILM IS EVIDENCE OF THAT.
LIBERAL (HASNT BEEN MUGGED YET) PAUL KERSEY'S WIFE AND DAUGHTER ARE BRUTALLY RAPED AND LEFT FOR DEAD IN THEIR UP TOWN NEW YORK CONDO. THE WIFE DIES AND THE DAUGHTER IS LEFT, A CATATONIC VEGETABLE.
KERSEY GRIEVES BY PLUNGING HIMSELF INTO HIS WORK WHICH SENDS HIM TO ARIZONA TO TROUBLESHOOT A SUBDIVISION. HE IS BEFRIENDED BY A WESTERNER BUSSINES TYPE, GREATLY PLAYED BY STUART MARGOLIAN OF 'ROCKFORD FILES' FAME. THEY WIND UP GOING TO A GUN CLUB WHERE KERSEY IS REINTRODUCED TO THE PLEASURES OF PISTOLS AND SOUND CONSERVATIVE PHILOSOPHY.
KERSEY RETURNS TO THE GUTTERS OF NEW YORK WITH A PISTOL AND A PLAN. MY ONLY PROBLEM WITH THE WHOLE FILM IS WHY THEY DIDNT REWRITE A LITTLE BIT AND GIVE KERSEY A MORE FORMIDABLE CALIBER OF REVOLVER, A .357 OR AT LEAST A .38. AT ANY RATE KERSEY SETS OUT TO TEMPT MUGGERS INTO TARGETING HIM AND THEN HE COOLY DOES WHAT THE 'LIBERAL' JUSTICE SYSTEM WONT. HE BALANCES THE SCALES BY BLOWING AWAY VARIOUS STREET SCUM WITH RUTHLESS EFFECIENCY.
WE CHEER AS KERSEY TAKES OUT THE TRASH. THE THING THAT MAKES THIS FILM SO REALISTIC IS THE SAME ELEMENT THAT MAKES ALL THE SEQUELS SUCK. IN 'DEATH WISH' KERSEY NEVER ACTUALLY CONFRONTS THE ACTUAL TURDS THAT DESTROYED HIS FAMILY. THIS ISNT HOLLYWOOD BUT IT IS REALITY AND THAT IS THE SINGLE MOST CREDIBLE THING ABOUT THIS PICTURE.
IN HIS LAST DECISIVE GUN BATTLE, KERESY, WHO IS WOUNDED HIMSELF AND IS ABOUT TO PASS OUT FROM BLOOD LOSS CHALLENGES A THUG TO FACE HIM IN TRUE 'DUKE' STYLE. "FILL YOUR HAND." HE SAYS MIMIKING A SCENE FROM JOHN WAYNES CLASSIC 'TRUE GRIT.' OF COURSE THE PUNK HAS NO CONCEPT OF ANYTHING BEYOND 'GETTING HIS FIX.' AND ABSCONDS WITHOUT DAMAGE AS KERSEY COLLAPSES.
FORGET THE SEQUELS AND AVOID THE LOOK A LIKES. 'DEATH WISH' IS THE ORIGINAL AND THE ONLY ONE THAT WORKS.
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on January 21, 2003
This film is important for what I believe is the same reason that it seems to irk liberals � it demonstrates that any person, no matter what their politics or what they might say or feel, can be completely changed by an event that affects them personally. (Picture Michael Dukakis in the 1988 debates with George Bush insisting he would not seek the death penalty if his wife were murdered. He may have �believed� this�.yet he wasn�t �believable�). This, to me, is the more powerful idea in �Death Wish�, not the ethical question concerning vigilantism itself.
Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) is a liberal New York architect who�s life changes after his wife and daughter-in-law are beaten by thugs in their apartment. Kersey�s wife dies from her injuries and his daughter-in-law suffers severe psychological trauma. We first really learn of Kersey�s liberal leanings on his �rehabilitation� assignment in Arizona: His father died in a hunting accident (guns are just accidents waiting to happen, don�t you know!) and he was a Conscientious Objector during the Korean war. But the initial tragedy, coupled by Kersey�s exposure to another, more �independent� way of life out west, slowly begins to change him. Once Kersey arrives back in the cesspool of New York and opens Stuart Margolin�s (the Arizona land developer) �gift� (a .32 caliber revolver), his fate is sealed. Yet even then, his �conversion� is not immediate. After shooting his first attacker, Bronson dashes home to vomit in the toilet, still being repulsed by what has just happened.
Once Bronson�s path is set, he really begins to contrast with his son, who seems a symbol of the generic, helpless victim. Bronson may not be the best actor but his stone-like demeanor suits the role and he does a more than adequate job. In fact, the acting as a whole has a certain �sparseness� about it, but that may be one of the elements that makes the film work. Some reviewers have been critical of the �datedness� of the movie � well, after all it was made in 1974. If it�s �dated�, it�s that, by today�s standards, the violence is somewhat tame, and that�s a plus in my book. If the movie has any drawbacks, it may be the cat-and-mouse game Kersey plays with the police chief (Vincent Gardenia), which ultimately begins to detract from the movie�s central theme.
This is not �landmark� film, but it is a good one worthy of many viewings, whether they be fun, cathartic or introspective. Herbie Hancock�s score is an added plus.
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on July 10, 2002
Crime in the streets and the police reaction to it is always not far from front page news. Occasionally, Hollywood thinks that it has a tap on the pulse of urban America, and in 1974, that tap was DEATH WISH. The popular perception then was that the streets of every large urban city was a battleground where the only ones armed were the bad guys. Crime rates were up, and the liberal approach to reducing that crime was down. Director Michael Winner constructed a tale that was more fairy tale than cinema veritee. In this movie, Charles Bronson plays architect Paul Kersey, who is your basic liberal good guy, educated, kindly, affluent, having a loving family. Whenever any director shows a family man in happiness, you know that you are being set up for the flip side of one of Grimm's most somber of fairy tales. His wife is killed and his daughter gang-raped by a bunch of greasy hoods, one of whom is Jeff Goldblum, before he became a good guy himself. This attack scene is a graphic one, designed to make the liberal urban dweller shake in a way that would not be duplicated until the equally nauseating I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. Kersey reacts with the way that conservatives truly believe that any liberal would have reacted, grief followed by a desire for revenge. Kersey is meant to be seen as the very definition of a conservative: a liberal who has not been mugged. Well, in this movie, Kersey has the equivalent. His family is torn apart, so he spends the rest of the film, first attracting muggers with his apparent helplessness, then blowing them away with a handgun. With each mugger he eliminates, the audience is manipulated in cheering him and damning them. The muggers are easy to spot in that nearly all are minorities and wear the required muggers outfits: sweat band, dirty shirt, and leather jacket. He keeps killing them until the police, symbolized by Vincent Gardenia, find out that he is the vigilante and gives him the Wild West order: get out of town by sundown. Kersey does only to continue his vigilante ways in yet another urban city.
DEATH WISH bears no more relation to the reality that was New York in 1973 then Bill Clinton to moral rectitude in 1996. What Micheal Winner wanted was a movie to appeal to the basest instincts of those who are caricatured in the film as total buffoons. Do you remember the scene in which a hard hat smilingly describes how he and his fellow hardhats beat the bejesus out of a greasy looking mugger? That moronically smug look on his face is the visual equivalent of the kind of urban dweller that Michael Winner hoped would buy enough tickets to make him a rich man. He succeeded. Calm rationality lost.
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on May 31, 2002
This movie could have been a lot better if it had a more competant director. Today it looks dated in places, and some of the dialogue delivery approaches camp at times (again, blame Mr Winner). Plot: after his wife and daughter are attacked by muggers (one being Jeff Goldblum)and Bronsons wife is stomped to death and his daughter raped and obscenely "tagged" with a can of spray paint, architect & Korean war conscientious objector Bronson acquires a gun on a business trip to Arizona and returns home to New York to embark on a one man vigilante rampage blasting street scum into oblivion. Bronson and Vincent Gardenia both give good perfomances, and the rape scene still has the power to jolt you out of your seat, but every time I see DEATH WISH I keep thinking of how it could be updated and remade... better. Still the fun of the series is to cheer Bronson on whenever he wastes some scumbag. This was the precursor to such revenge flicks as I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and MS .45.
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on February 28, 2003
Death Wish is certainly one of Bronson's best. It had to be. They wouldn't have made four sequels if it wasn't and it didn't have potential to continue the story.
Paul Kersey, played by Bronson, is an architect with a wife and daughter. After he and his wife get back from a vacation, his wife is murdered and his daughter sexually assaulted. The street punks,( one of them played by Jeff Goldblum )that committed the crimes are never caught.Bronson is of course devastated and is concerned for his daughter who has not recovered from the ordeal and now does not speak, at least most of the time.
Kersey meets a man whilst doing business and he gives him a gun.Kersey turns into a vigilante and goes around New York shooting street punks. What a loss.Not. Unfortunately the police through a process of elimination are onto him and at the end tell him to leave town. But as we know,Bronson doesn't stop there.Can't say I blame him.
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on October 11, 2003
I will never forget this movie.Charles Bronson plays the main
starring role in this landmark movie.After going to the grocery store his wife and daughter are assualted and killed by a group
of punks.The police prove to be totally ineffective in their
efforts to catch the criminals.After a visit out west Bronson tekes the law into his own hands.One street punk after the other is gunned down by an irate Bronson.The streets once become safe.
The police finally figure out who the vigilante is.He is finally subdued after killing a staggering number of street thugs. After shipping him out of town the movie ends. This is just the beginning of a sucessful movie string.This is one of the all time
movie classics.Like I have already said. I will never forget this movie. God Bless you Charles Bronson.
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on August 8, 2001
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.
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on June 23, 2009
I was such a fan of Charles Bronson when I was a kid. It is just so great to get those oldies at such great bargain prices from amazon.ca.
Shipping was also as expected. Thanks
Charlie
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