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 does it look?
Death Wish is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. If you’ve seen the movie before, then you know it has never looked pristine, but this new transfer is very solid. There is a certain level of intentional grain present, which adds to the film’s gritty tone and realism, so don’t fret when you notice it. The colors look a little faded, but this is also partially intentional and the contrast seems strong throughout. This is a hard film to gauge as far as visuals, because of the intended look involved, but this is the best I’ve seen the movie look on home video.
Audio: How does it sound?
This disc uses the original mono, which is clean and acceptable, but some scenes could benefit from some surround use. But even the shootout scenes come off well, as this track is very crisp and shows little age related issues. The music sounds as good as you can expect from mono, while the dialogue is very clean and consistent. This is a very good mono track and in the end, it gets the job done. This disc also includes a French mono track and English subtitles, in case you’ll need them.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer.