I rewatched this Charlie Bronson classic on Netflix a week or so back. A couple of things struck me. First, it's really badly made – in the way that lots of classic 70s flicks are really badly made. Choppy editing. Shitty music. Some terrible, terrible acting.
But I watched it all the way through because I'd never seen it before, and it is a pop cultural touchstone. I aslo enjoyed it, the same way I enjoy beer and tacos, or greasy hamburgers. If they are true to themselves they can still be great.
A couple of observations.
The fight choreography is awful, but the violence is more realisitc because of it. The home invasion and rape which provide the 'inciting incident' are difficult to watch. They are intimate but not voyeuristic. It's like watching CCTV footage.
Jeff Goldblum is one of the baddies!
But you never see him again. Bronson's architect doent hunt down the men who attacked his wife and daughter. The city is so full of scum there is no chance of ever finding them.
In this way, Death Wish is a revenge movie, but one firmly rooted in realism. In the dozens, even hundreds of later movies and TV shows inspired by it, the grieving father always gets his man. Liam Neeson's Taken series even dispenses with the grief and cuts straight to the vengeance in response to the mere threat of violation. Bronson's character would be impressed.
The other thing that stands out? The lack of guns. This is actually a lietmotiv for the movie; the disarming and emasculation of the American male by an earlier and very different 'gun lobby'. The anti-gun lobby. I found it weird to spend time an America so denuded of guns that one man with a pistol could constitute a clear and present danger to the civilised order, as Bronson does.
In searching for an image to run with this, I discovered that Bruce Williss has a reboot of DW coming out this year. Tere is more cinematic artistry in the two and half minutes of the trailer than in the entire running time of Bronson's original. But the realism is gone. And I have no doubt Bruce will have his revenge.