Since I just recently read Death Wish after having watched the reboot with Bruce Willis and then the original movie with Charles Bronson, I figured I’d do a VERSUS post much like I did for the Bourne Identity. I’ll be doing them in the order I imbibed them. I don’t think I need to say this, BUT, spoilers? I mean, you won’t “need’ to watch or read after this. You know my style 😀
And this is going to be like 3 reviews all packed into one post, plus commentary, so I expect this will be lengthier than normal.
First up is the 2018 reboot starring Bruce Willis. I’d avoided the original movie because Charles Bronson’s level of violence disturbed even me, from the bits and pieces I’d seen over the years. However, I really like Bruce Willis as an actor, all the way from Die Hard to RED. It was on Prime for free so I figured I’d watch it.
Paul Kersey is a doctor in Chicago. He gets into an altercation with another parent at a soccer game but refuses to get physical with the other guy. This shows how “pacifistic and liberal” he is. Then one day when he gets his car valeted at an expensive restaurant the valet steals his address and later that week breaks into the house with 2 other men. Only the wife and teen daughter are home. I didn’t know what level of violence or what type of violence was going to be here so I was a bit cringey. Thankfully, while there is some innuendo from one of the creeps, the whole focus was the burglary. The daughter, who has been taking krav maga (the Israeli Defense Force’s official martial art) fights back and it ends with the daughter and mother getting shot. The wife dies and the daughter is in a coma in the hospital. The rest of the movie is about Willis finding a gun and suddenly being willing to use it. He tracks down the 3 killers, executes them and then goes after some drug dealers. He is also going after the boss of the 3 killers. The boss man ends up sending a hit squad to Willis’ house and everything goes down. The police were on the track of the “vigilante” and with this attack Willis pins that on the mob boss guy. He then gives up on his vigilante attack since the boss man is dead and his daughter is awake and ok.
I enjoyed this a lot more than I was expecting. Willis as the Everyman turned Vigilante was decent but I had to roll my eyes in several places. First was the “I won’t fight you so I’m a liberal” scene. That wasn’t being a pussy liberal, just showing self control. I actually found Willis’s willingness to call the other guy out but not to make it physical to be very manly. The housebreaking scene was cringey, like I said, because I didn’t know where it was going to go. This is a rated R movie and I knew that was for violence. It was almost a relief to me when burglary goes awry and the guns came out. They also did a pull away and only showed bullet flashes through curtains through a window, so nothing graphic. Then the movie went full on action film. John Wick, errr, I mean Paul Kirsey finds a gun from a drug patient who dies and magically finds out one of the guys who killed his wife. He shoots at a signpost at night and over the course of a week or a month magically becomes Mr Marksman. Then he tracks down and kills scumbags. He gets hurt, the police are after him, his brother-in-law thinks he might be the vigilante. There is a lot of tv talk show chatter and the movie gives full reign to the brain dead fluff heads who talk without thinking. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the tip of the hat to the psychological aspect so prevalent in the book. Everything is wrapped up pretty good as Paul gives up being the vigilante and takes his daughter to college. The movie ends with some jerk doing a purse snatch right in front of Willis and Willis making eye contact with the guy and pointing his hand and finger at him like a gun.
A decent action flick if you like amateurs doing violent things. Willis has presence and is competent without being a Gary Stu. His brother-in-law, played by Vincent D’Onofrio, does a great job of showing just how messed up Paul Kersey becomes during the movie. Glad I watched it for free on Prime but probably won’t ever re-watch it.
Next we have the 1974 movie starring Charles Bronson. Bronson was a 70’s and early 80’s staple actor in a lot of violent movies. He was a tough guy and his craggy, creased face showed a tired, careworn visage that went well with most of his characters.
In this movie Paul Kersey is an architect in New York City. He works for a big firm that specializes in high price, low rent tenement buildings. Paul has vocally stated he’s against such projects and wants to build affordable, decent buildings, thus establishing his liberal credentials. His wife and married daughter are out grocery shopping and have the groceries delivered. Some drug addicts pretend to be the delivery guy and break in, looking for money for drugs. When they don’t find anything, the prepare to take payment in other ways. The mother fights back and one of the thugs shoves her away. She hits her head on a table and dies. The thugs get scared and run away. Paul is called by his son-in-law and meets him at the hospital. His wife is pronounced dead on arrival and his daughter, while alive and unhurt is experiencing shock. She eventually goes to therapy, where she doesn’t respond and ends up in a sanatorium for the insane. Paul is distraught but eventually goes back to work to get back “to normal”. One of the clients is from Arizona and Paul has to talk a trip out west to go over their books. He becomes friendly with the client and the client gives him a pistol which he takes back to New York City. He ends up killing a druggy who tries to rob him and two young men on a subway. He gets wounded and the cops are on his trail. Eventually the cops make him a deal, to leave New York City and they’ll make sure his run as a vigilante never becomes public. He goes to work in Chicago and the movie ends with him helping a young woman who was being harassed by some thugs. Paul points his fingers at the thugs like a gun and the movie ends.
After the 2018 movie, I was expecting a Charles Bronson version. The home breaking scene was a bit more violent than the 2018 version and the sexual assault, while not concluded or graphic, was definitely there. I was a bit more prepared for it so I wasn’t feeling cringey like I was with the first movie. Definitely something to be aware of though if you do watch it.
This was not an action/adventure movie. It was a lot more psychological than the reboot and Charles Bronson was great as the tortured husband and father realizing how blindly he’d been going through life. Of course, being Charles Bronson, he really brings the anger and the rage to the screen. He’s really good at showing an amateur doing his best to go against his very own nature. The ending with him relocating to Chicago and finger gunning the punks was great. I can see why the reboot copied that to a tee.
Where Bruce Willis was a man on a mission of revenge, in this Charles Bronson is just lashing out against the helplessness that a man in a city like New York is destined to feel. Several of the side characters do a lot of talking and it’s all about the rights and responsibility that a man must take hold of in a free country. I felt like I was watching a movie on The Rights of Man. And not some social justice warrior crap but just what those rights actually require of someone to take a hold of them. Now I was ready to read the book.
Then we had this little masterpiece. My review, with all of it’s attendant thoughts can be found HERE.
Basically, this was a psychological book. It was at one end of the spectrum, the 2018 movie was on the action/adventure side and the 1974 bridged the gap. I’m glad to have seen and read all 3 different versions. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses but I found the book to be the most solid and the only one I’d re-visit in several years. The movies I don’t ever plan on re-watching, that is for sure.