Gary Cruise’s review published on Letterboxd:
Death Wish is a revenge thriller following a New York City architect who 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.
The best line of dialogue in this movie comes from an extra in a police department who is concerned about his dog who helps him with his career because he paints wonderful pictures with his paws. Death Wish is an excellent action revenge thriller and does many things right but it’s not without it’s laughable scenes. It never attempts to shy away from getting too gritty or brutal but it also feels rather camp at many points too thanks to the questionable dialogue and acting choices. The tones are all over the place in the movie and the pacing could be better but it can be very intense when it wants to be and once it really gets into it, it’s very entertaining. With the negative aspects and the camp moments aside, this is a very influential movie and it’s easy to see why. There are still movies being made to this day with clear influences taken from this, some have surprassed it, others not so much but it is great to see this exploitation flick making an impact on modern cinema.
Charles Bronson is fantastic as lead character Paul Kersey. Bronson appears to remain cool, calm and collective throughout the movie (oddly enough, even when his wife dies) which makes him all the more intimidating when he snaps and gets his revenge. Once he gets into vigilante mode, you can’t help but to root for him as he takes down all the lowlife scumbag criminals of New York City. I couldn’t help but wonder if Steven Keats had to some sort of problem as to where he couldn’t stop saying Dad?! Keats plays Paul’s son-in-law, Jack and calls him Dad during every scene they share together. Other than that, his performance isn’t exactly awful (certainly not great either) but the Dad thing is noticeable and it is extremely annoying. This movie is actually Jeff Goldblum’s first ever movie! He plays a psychotic rapist listed as Freak #1... What an odd way to start a fantastic career. In an ideal world, Goldblum should’ve been in the lead role. Just imagine the possibilities of how entertaining that would’ve been.
This movie doesn’t go without it’s disturbing moments. The brutal rape sequence within the first act is extremely jarring and very difficult to watch. The acting in this sequence by Hope Lange and Kathleen Tolan as Paul’s wife and daughter makes it all the more effective as they put everything they can into the intense scene. It’s very mean spirited considering Paul and his wife have been portrayed as nice and likeable characters up until this point but this just makes Paul’s vengeance even better later in the movie. This movie has many great action sequences that often fall into a more realistic feeling than a lot of other action thrillers do. It has some excellent cinematography and continuously looks fantastic no matter which of it’s many tones it’s using. Much like Taxi Driver, this movie shows a more dirty and rundown side to New York which does work really well with a lot of what this movie is going for. The brilliant soundtrack always seems to fit every scene perfectly no matter the feeling it’s trying to go for.
Overall, Death Wish is a movie that hasn’t particularity aged well and often suffers from poor dialogue and questionable acting choices. However, as much as this isn’t particularly a perfect movie, it does still manage to pack one hell of a punch at times as it remains brutal and intense as well as entertaining. As far as revenge movies go, this is highly influential and certainly worth checking out.
🔫🔫🔫 & 1/2 / 🔫🔫🔫🔫🔫