After seeing the new reboot of Death Wish this afternoon, I decided it was time to check out the original. I have never been a huge fan of revenge-killer flicks, but this is the one where most of the rest came from, starring Charles Bronson in what was most likely his most well-known role.
Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) was an architect whose wife and daughter were attacked in their home by three muggers who spotted the women at the supermarket. After a violent encounter, the wife wound up dead and the daughter was traumatized.
Paul is downtrodden, but returns to work in an attempt to fall into work. His boss, seeing how Paul is reacting, sends him on a work assignment out of New York, to Arizona. In Arizona, Paul gets a taste of Old West justice and retaliation by one’s own hand. Returning to New York with a special gift from a friend, a .32 handgun, Paul heads out on the streets in an attempt to draw muggers out of the woodwork to execute them.
Unlike the 2018 reboot, we see the change in the character of Paul Kersey as he becomes more brazen and confident. Starting as a Pacifist- a conscientious objector during the Korean War, Paul at first was lost. After his first kill, he became upset over the killing of a mugger, but as time moved on, he started stalking prey. He became less concerned over his daughter, going as far as telling his son-in-law that he could not continue to whine and cry all the time. Even after the police warned Paul that they were watching him, he continued to head out to hunt.
Of course, watching this film with a 2018 eye makes me wonder about the message of the film, but if I avoid that, this one is at least a much more interesting character study of a man who has lost everything and whose perception of the world changed because of it.
Charles Bronson does a wonderful job here, much stronger of a performance than that of Bruce Willis. Vincent Gardenia played Detective Frank Ochoa, the man with the assignment to get the Vigilante to stop without arresting him or killing him.
Self-defense or brutal killer? It is a question covered here much better than in the revenge porn of 2018.