May not be the right answer, but it's far from the wrong one.
This is without a doubt the quintessential Charles Bronson performance, a modern classic that nearly 50 years old still touches the nerve regardless of where the viewer lives. After his wife is beaten to the point where she dies in the hospital and his daughter ends up going into a mental collapse after being raped and witnessing the attack on her mother, Bronson, previously a pacifist, turns vigilante and becomes a one-man Army on the streets of New York City, shooting at point-blank at various muggers who attempt to rob him. I'm surprised that the muggings continue because there are copycats out there, so when they encounter the original, it's fun to watch how quickly Bronson reacts. A young Steve Guttenberg is among the Thugs who break into Bronson's home and commit the original intact, and Lawrence Hilton Jacobs from "Welcome Back Kotter" is one of the men who gets the Bronson vigilante treatment. The streets of Manhattan become more of a war zone than they ever were before, with the victim's fighting back and that includes a hysterically funny Helen Martin pulling out of hat pin to deal with the man who attempts to mug her.
When Bronson commits his first retaliation, his reaction is very natural, literally breaking down in the chairs and getting sick, something I certainly could see myself doing. But after a while, it's like second nature to him, and I'm sure there were theaters in 1974 where people were applauding every time someone got their comeuppance. Most viewers will definitely be on Bronson's side, and they hope that police Sergeant Vincent Gardenia will fail to capture him.
A definite crowd-pleaser among action films, this is a very disturbing film in many ways because it shows that police officers are not doing their duty to protect the public and sometimes the public has to take action. Hope Lange is Bronson's wife early in the film, and their marriage is obviously a very happy one. I've seen worse home invasions on film so it wasn't as disturbing to me as it would have been in 1974, but still, it's hard to imagine the horrors that the two women went through. Olympia Dukakis appears in one scene with future "Moonstruck" husband Gardenia, and I'm sure that's her voice I heard yelling out in a previous one. This is a film that certainly didn't need sequels (even though there were three) as there is no improving on the first one. Director Michael Winner really had a winner with this one and Bronson entered film immortality by doing it.
Reviewed by ccthemovieman-19 / 10
Classic Remedy For Instant Satisfaction
I guess by now you could call this movie a "classic." It would meet most definitions. It was so popular that it spawned a number of sequels, but they just got dumb and dumber. This is one of the most famous "revenge" movies ever made and still stands up today.
This was a very, very simple story and it panders to our base instincts which is probably why it was so successful. Most people want justice, and they want it now....which is what this movie preaches. At the time, the movie was shocking. If it came out today, it wouldn't have nearly the impact. However, the early scene of the mother and daughter raped and killed is still horrifying. That will never change.
The story then slows down as we see the transformation of the husband, from conscientious objector to vigilante. When Charles Bronson hits the streets, the film picks up big-time. The movie also ends on a very satisfying note.
Reviewed by MartinHafer9 / 10
far from "politically correct" but brilliant
I have to say that I have never particularly liked Charles Bronson movies--in particular, his follow-up movies to Death Wish. What was an exceptional film, has been marginalized by two factors--the utter stupidity of DEATH WISH 2, 3, 4, etc. as well as the loud wailing of the ultra-left about how horrible and offensive this film is. One of the later DEATH WISH films shows that Bronson has given up using his trusty .357 Magnum and replaced it with a shoulder-launched rocket! Talk about making a film to appeal to the idiots out there! And as far as the ultra-left goes, I doubt that in many cases these people actually saw DEATH WISH before condemning it in a "knee-jerk" way just because it DID have guns and vigilantism.
The film is an excellent portrait of an ordinary successful guy living with his family in the big city. One day, all this is interrupted when his wife is murdered and his daughter brutalized by a gang of scum. He's miserable and his life has been totally uprooted. Only later, when a business associate gives him a gun, does he consider looking for vengeance. And, I like how this was handled. He was NOT a jerk or crazy man--especially at first. Instead, he just carried the gun for protection. Trouble came to him--he wasn't initially seeking it. When he is mugged, he shoots back and is later horrified by his actions. But, as the movie continues, you see he then begins to deliberately walk the streets late at night in the hope that the thugs would attack. He never, by the way, solicited these attacks--they just occurred because he had the unmitigated gall to walk the streets after dark. So, he is technically a vigilante of sorts, but he was never a crazed killer and, quite frankly, I didn't shed too many tears when he shot these predators. The film exposed our breakdown in society in the 1970s without explicitly recommending we pack heat and blast away at the bad guys and in the process it really made me think.