Death Wish: 40th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)

February 14, 2014 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) used to be a very liberal man, one who thought criminals were just victims too, victims of life and the system. He used to be a peaceful man, one who disliked violence and all the elements that go with it, but that was then and this is now. After his wife and daughter were attacked and raped, his wife ends up dead and his daughter is in a catatonic state. This pushes Kersey beyond his normal self and normal mental state and after some time off in Arizona, he returns to take some revenge on the criminals that plague the streets. While in Arizona, Kersey learned how to handle a gun and when he fights crime, he uses a simple handgun. This means he is undergunned when going on his patrols, since the criminals often have superior weapons to his single handgun. But Kersey is dedicated and begins to reign down on the criminals, which causes the crime rate to shrink. Now Kersey is making a difference, but he also has the other criminals and the police on his tracks. Are Kersey’s actions immoral and if in his position, what would you do?

Death Wish is a rather dark, violent film that doesn’t pull any punches and while that is not for everyone, I’ve always liked this movie. Now the sequels might be another matter all together, but this first installment is terrific and has stood up well to time. Charles Bronson isn’t Robert Duvall and his acting his less than award winning, but his tough guy persona is more than enough here. I do think he handles the emotional sequences decently enough, but this film won’t be remembered for the acting, so why even sweat it out? As I mentioned, this is a pretty brutal film in terms of violence and subject matter, so if you need light stuff, this isn’t the movie for you. Also, if you don’t want to see depictions of rape and subsequent murder, Death Wish is best left unseen in your case. I know the subject matter is dark and all, but the movie is a real powerful one and it is well worth a look. I do wish Paramount put a little more effort into this disc, as the supplements are limited to the film’s theatrical trailer. Still though, this disc is recommended as a rental and if you really like the film, then a purchase wouldn’t be a bad idea.

His more recent efforts have been less than stellar, but as evidenced here, Charles Bronson used to make some good movies. I still prefer his westerns above all else, but Death Wish and his other vigilante flicks were fun also, so no complaints. Bronson is not that gifted in terms of acting talent, but he does look tough and in a movie like this, that is a valuable element to have. He is also very believable as a one man wrecking crew, as he has the talk and the walk, also important to his character here. In this first Death Wish film, Bronson plays a very realistic role and does well with it, though later in the series he also works as more Ramboesque character. As I said, Bronson is not known for his traditional skills as a thespian, but he gets by on his tough guy persona. If you want to see more Bronson, I recommend The Magnificent Seven, The Mechanic, Breakheart Pass, The Dirty Dozen, and Machine Gun Kelly. The rest of the cast includes Vincent Gardenia (Little Shop Of Horrors, Heaven Can Wait), Steven Keats (Black Sunday), William Redfield (One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Fantastic Voyage), Hope Lange (Just Cause, I Am The Cheese), and in his feature film debut, Jeff Goldblum (Nine Months, Jurassic Park)

Video: How’s it look?

Death Wish is making it’s HD debut and looks surprisingly good on Blu-ray. The image is AVC encoded with a 1.78:1 ratio and comes with a virtually flawless print. I was worried that this would get thrown onto Blu-ray without much care, but I needn’t worry as this deliver strong, sharp colors consistently. Background shots give nice detail to the busy New York city life. The opening moments also display strong clarity when Kersey is on the beach with his wife. Black levels are deep and strong. The distinct detail with Charles Bronson’s wrinkles is also heightened here. There’s just a nice clean overall look to the whole thing. This is a strong, solid transfer for a film that’s celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Audio: How’s it sound?

We have a DTS 2.0 track for this release and it serves the film well. The action sequences hit hard and have a nice impact that adds to the film. There’s plenty of city noise throughout the film and the track presents that well. Vocals remained clear throughout the track as well. I don’t have the old DVD to compare this to, but I enjoyed what I heard on this disc. I do wonder if a 5.1 remix would’ve benefited this film much, but I’m pleased that we at least get a good track here.

Supplements: What are the extras?

In a perfect world this disc would be loaded with extras. After all, this IS the film’s 40th anniversary, but we all know that we don’t live in a perfect world and sadly, all that’s included here is the film’s theatrical trailer. Surely, they could’ve dug up some extras or vintage interviews in the very least, but that’s wishful thinking.

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