Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Review: Death Wish - 1974

Death Wish
Director: Michael Winner

When Paul Kerseys wife and daughter gets attacked in their home, the wife killed and the daughter raped and left mentally disturbed, he takes the law into his own hands and become a one man vigilante army. He tests himself, where are his limits, can he actually withstand a mugger armed with a knife or a gun? At first he has grave problems with the violence but after a while he arms himself with a gun and goes out to provoke the scum of New York to attack him. He then shoots them down without mercy!

I first saw this years ago during the raids to my local video stores that I mentioned in an earlier review. This must be one of the best know film with Charles Bronson and most defiantly THE vigilante film! As I recall it  I didn’t think it was such a big of a deal back then but when I saw it again yesterday, the first time in fifteen or twenty years I realized how much to the point it really is. It’s not the violence that makes the movie, not the action. But rather the cover up. When Paul Kersey (Bronson) has shot several victims the police finds out who he is, mind you it’s done by some pretty far fetched methods, and the try to cover it up. They don’t want him to be arrested and definitely not killed. They don’t want a martyr.

Because if they catch him they will trigger even more vigilantes to start defending themselves i.e. killing bad guys, commit murder. The police must uphold the law but on the other hand, he gets rid of some of the scum that the police will never catch and the crime rate goes down during his reign of the dark night streets. Instead they try to force him to stop and get out of New York. A bit like an old western and there’s even a comment about it in the dialog. Kersey asks if he should be gone before sundown. Brilliant line really.

The acting is really nice and the direction is swell. I can’t say that it needs any improvement on those matters. It does feel a little bit dated though and it might have past it’s expiring date when it comes to the story. There are some many films which are more explicit nowadays and the political satire may have become obsolete, I don’t know. But on the other hand, the debate of gun control is still a pretty big issue as I understand it so maybe it’s still pretty accurate after all. In this film the scale turns from pacifism to quite the opposite when the need arise. It’s all about revenge and how people might think in a situation like that. I don’t think any of us would think rational if this happened to us. Yet this is what Paul Kersey seems to do. His plan is thought through, at least up to a point and he doesn’t panic once he got the hang of it.

It might not have the most fantastic story of all the Charles Bronson movies but it’s pretty realistic and if you look fast you’ll see Jeff Goldblum as a bad guy in the very beginning of the film. I can’t say that he’s fantastic or anything but this was his debut. That ought to count for something I think.