Director: Michael Winner
Starring: Charles Bronson, Hope Lange, Vincent Gardenia
More info: IMDb
Tagline: Vigilante, city style -- Judge, Jury, and Executioner
Plot: A New York City architect becomes a one-man vigilante squad after his wife is murdered by street punks in which he randomly goes out and kills would-be muggers on the mean streets after dark.
My rating: 8/10
Will I watch it again? Yup.
Bronson = Badass! He doesn't say much...he doesn't have to.
It's a classic and there's a reason - Bronson. He's the man. Was he the perfect choice for this role? Probably not. I can buy that he's an architect and all but he looks hardened and mean like a guy who could go over the edge and start his own vigilante justice. A meeker actor like Ed Begley Jr would look more appropriate...but then we would've been robbed of another iconic Bronson performance and that would just be too bad. I see on imdb that Jack Lemon turned the role down. THAT would be a picture I'd like to see.
He owns the role. The sequels are fun (I've only seen the next two - #4 & 5 are on the horizon) but there's something about this one that feels so nice and cuddly. The rest of the cast is great. Steven Keats as Bronson's son-in-law is an annoying puss but that's the role. I'm sure anyone married to Bronson's daughter would cower in his presence. I'm not convinced I wouldn't wet & shit myself every year at Thanksgiving at the Bronson house if I were married into the family. Any stare from him longer than two seconds would probably have me in tears, afraid for my life.
Vincent Gardenia is great as the lead detective on the case. There are LOTS of familiar faces including Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Guest. Stuart Margolin (Angel from THE ROCKFORD FILES) is a gas to watch. I've always dug that guy. Great voice. It was cool when he and Bronson took a visit to Old Tucson. It's an old west town just outside of Tucson that was built in the 30s (I think) for the purpose of making movies. I went there a few years back and had a fucking blast. I'd love to go back. I dig goofy shit like that.
I remember I was chosen for a mock gunslinger duel (OK, so I threw my hand in the air and behaved like a 6 year old when they asked for a volunteer). I'm facing my opponent who's about twenty five or so feet away. He's dressed up like the real deal and I'm in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts looking like a dork. Anyway, they give me a vintage-looking pistol with blanks, cocked it and had my arm straight out, aiming it at my opponent. I'm to wait for the town clock to strike and pull the trigger at high noon. As the seconds approached, my opponent yelled out if there was anyone I'd like to say a prayer for and just as quick as he said that I yelled out, "You!". The clock struck and he drew his weapon and fired before I was able to pull the trigger. Bam..bam. That's how it went down. I felt humiliated. Afterward I was talking to the announcer and my opponent. The announcer said there was no way that I was going to be faster than him even with my weapon drawn and cocked and his holstered. He's a renowned quick-draw champion and he's only been beaten once and that's because his gun jammed. That made me feel muuuuuuch better. I still can't believe that in the heat of the duel I was able to quickly say something super-cool like they do in the movies.
Oh yeah, we're talking about DEATH WISH. My only real gripe is Herbie Hancock's score. It doesn't work for me at all. It was his third film score and it shows. It's also another ten years before he did another one. After a weekend of great crime films and great scores, this score stood out from the rest by a long shot. Not good.
DEATH SPOILERS II
One thing that seems unique is that Bronson never encounters any of the three men who were responsible for raping his daughter and killing his wife.
END OF SPOILERS...YARRRRRRR!
I totally dig that aspect of the film. That would never happen these days. Hollywood wouldn't allow it which is why Hollywood largely stinks and its system and film makers have no balls. The Bronson body count is 10, btw. It's a great flick and another fun performance by filmdom's #1 badass. WHEN THE HELL IS THERE GOING TO BE A SPECIAL EDITION DVD OF THIS THING?
Here's a funny anecdote from imdb: After finishing THE STONE KILLER (1973), Charles Bronson and Michael Winner wanted to make another film together, and were discussing further projects. "What do we do next?" asked Bronson. "The best script I've got is DEATH WISH. It's about a man whose wife and daughter are mugged and he goes out and shoots muggers," said Winner. "I'd like to do that," Bronson said. "The film?" asked Winner. Bronson replied, "No . . . shoot muggers."
I believe it.