I have to admit it. A guilty pleasure. I believe in the rule of law … but I also recognize that sometimes the law isn’t enough. Which is not to say I precisely endorse vigilante actions. But I have to admit something else. If anyone in my family was subjected to the horrors that descended on Paul Kersey’s family, and I knew who the culprits were … and the law couldn’t touch them … I would do my best to exterminate them.
I hadn’t realized that this had become a franchise. I think I may have seen Death Wish II, but I didn’t know there have been five films. It seems the sequels were pretty bad, but I don’t think this one is. Charles Bronson doesn’t go hunting for punks and thugs at first, they find him and are quite unpleasantly, and usually fatally, surprised when they see his gun. In fact, he never does get the rapist gang who killed his wife and left his daughter catatonic. (One of those thugs is Jeff Goldblum!)
But the part I can’t endorse is that after some remorse for killing the first guy who tries to mug him … he finds out that he digs it, and goes trolling for more, using himself as bait. This Vincent Gardenia as a streetwise and cynical police detective, cannot allow, even though most New Yorkers view the anonymous vigilante as a hero. And I really liked the ending, which almost rang true. Instead of trying to prosecute Bronson, with all the negative public reaction that would entail, the cops and politicians basically just tell him to get out of Dodge. Go away, go kill thugs somewhere else. Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Seattle … just not New York!