Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Film Review: Death Wish (1974)

Death Wish (Review)
United States/1974
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...more than enjoyable for fans of the genre."

When his family is brutally attacked by muggers, architect Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) becomes an armed vigilante...

Death Wish is a very simple vigilante/revenge film. The story quickly introduces and develops the relationship between Paul and his wife – probably less than 5 minutes. Rather early in the film, Paul's wife and daughter are brutally attacked. Paul and his son-in-law deal with the police and eventually – after some long buildup – Paul becomes a vigilante. The rest of the film follows Paul as he deals his own breed of justice to the despicable muggers plaguing his city and as the police attempt to stop him. The ending is odd, but decent.

I liked the simplicity of the story, but I found it to be mostly ineffective. I'm a big fan of buildup in film, especially slow-burn buildup. And, like I said, this film has plenty of buildup. However, I think the buildup is poorly balanced. The attack happens so early in the film, it's almost impossible to have any connection to these characters; consequently, the attack, as disturbing as it may be, feels less effective than it should have. Instead, this film opts to buildup Paul's decision to become a vigilante. It would feel much more natural and effective if it had spend an equal amount of time on each, but instead it feels a bit dull and, well, ineffective. Furthermore, the story does feel a tad bit on the repetitious side during the latter half of the film – bait a mugger, kill a mugger, police investigation, and repeat.

Otherwise, the story kept my attention and I was fairly entertained. There are some suspenseful and tense scenes here and there. And, the story does a decent job in representing the issues with self-defense and gun control. Even more fortunate, the film does not preach. It has its discussions about guns and self-defense, and so on, but it doesn't beat you over the head with it. I suppose the best way to describe this film is as a standard vigilante film. Sure, it's practically the pioneer of the genre, but it doesn't pack many surprise – and not that should have to.

The acting is good. If you watch a lot of films, it's what you would expect from a typical 70s film. I enjoyed Charles Bronson as the lead, though, he's great. The film looks good; the cinematography doesn't really pop, but it's more than competent. The music is great; I like these old-school soundtracks, and this soundtrack is good – however, it occasionally feels out of place. On the technical side, it doesn't really stand out, but it's also far from bad. Director Michael Winner is good, he pulls decent performances from the cast and has a decent flow for the film; however, the film does suffer from some dull moments, some bad balancing, and some poor pacing.

Overall, Death Wish is a good film. I know bashed it quite a bit, but it is more than competent and more than enjoyable for fans of the genre. It suffers from its mediocre buildup and balancing, as well as the repetitive latter half, but it ultimately works as a vigilante crime thriller. Death Wish simply has not aged well, or at least as well as many other 70s films – like The Exorcist or Invasion of the Body Snatchers – and I suppose that's one of its bigger disappointments.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some sex and brief nudity, including a sexual battery.

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