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Death Wish (1974)
Movie Review by The Mortician

Death Wish (1974) I love the entire DEATH WISH franchise with probably Parts 2-4 rotating around as my favorites. But favorites aside, the classic original is the best in terms of original story, acting, execution, and Bronson's acting. Bronson plays a mild mannered architect in NYC. Crime is rampant but he is living the good life. His wife and daughter are attacked by thugs for money and when they don't have any, they rape and murder them. His wife dies and his daughter is catatonic for the rest of her life. Bronson is excellent as satisfied, middle-aged Average American Man thrust into the madness and terror of life in the concrete jungle. The attack scene is pretty brutal and graphic, not quite as bad as I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, but pushing the envelope. Look for a young Jeff Goldblum as one of the thugs. The punk with the spray paint can is awful- he paints Bronson's daughter's ass blue in the scene! Bronson goes through the emotional cores of losing his family and is quite adept at showing the stages of grief through good acting- helplessness, blame, rage, loss, on and on it goes. Bronson is sent to Arizona to work on a big building project headed by awesome character actor Stuart Margolin (Angel from THE ROCKFORD FILES). Margolin gets him into shooting again and Bronson is reminded of what he did in the war...and when his going away present is a GUN...well...you know what Bronson and guns means! Hitting the streets for vigilante action. It's a nice, slow build-up though as he works up to hurting punks. When one of the street urchins tries to rob him, Bronson first carries a sock full of rolled quarters and slams it into the guy's face. The build-up continues with Bronson getting sick after his first kill, a very human reaction. He's not just a KILLING MACHINE ROBOT, like in the later sequels. You feel for him. Of course, he begins to like it, to get off on it, and the media eats it up! This is where the movie gets really good. Crime goes down, as the thugs are afraid to commit their hideous actions. (Maybe we can learn something from this even today? That for felons...there's a punishment for the crime?) Vincent Gardenia is the cop that eventually hops on Bronson's trail and there's lots of cat and mouse stuff at the end. Overall, DEATH WISH is realistic, well-acted, tense, suspenseful, and an excellent movie. Based on a really good novel by Brian Garfield, the movie made it even better. I loved the ending and Bronson's quips in this movie, it's right up there with Eastwood's DIRTY HARRY. A classic, slow burn of a movie, from a time period bygone but the message is still the same, this movie is like a message in a bottle really... What I also found interesting...and very realistic about this movie...is that Kersey (Bronson) never catches up with the perps that attacked his family. That's the big payoff you're looking for in a movie like this, but realistically, not knowing who they were...it would be hard to nail them, so in that respect, again, the movie goes for the more original, realistic approach that we wouldn't expect. See DEATH WISH again and give it the respect it deserves. A bonafide classic with that early 70's groove going for it.

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