Death Wish VS Death Wish VS Death Wish

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.


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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.




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37 thoughts on “Death Wish VS Death Wish VS Death Wish

  1. I think the original is a good movie, although it sort of gave birth to a sub-genre that was too much violence porn and not enough substance. Here we had real emotion and I feel it might be a good idea to revisit the movie. Thanks for a reminder it’s out there!

    The remake… I try to boycott remakes, way too many of them are made, lazy Hollywood should do more original content 🙂 I might not even see the new Lion King, despite loving the animated version…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, reboots are the curse of our day. I’m still dreading the day that the Matrix gets a reboot *shudder*

      Now, did the original give birth to, or just act as a forerunner, to the types of movies that Bronson starred in? I’ve watched the Mechanic, original and reboot and that one I’m firmly on the reboots side.

      I guess a time frame of about 50 years is necessary for me to not care if a movie is a reboot or not. Anything less than that and chances are good I’ve at least heard of it, possibly watched it. Older than that, not nearly as good a chance.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I try to think of a remake I like more than original… I’d have to browse through my IMDb history… possibly Dress, I think the new one is underappreciated

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Admittedly, for me, there aren’t very many reboots that top the original. In a lot of cases, you can see the “artistic spirit” has devolved in the intervening years. I also think it says a lot about the cultures both were made in. Like little snapshots, however distorted, of that particular time.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. The original movie is very underrated, in my opinion. I need to track down the book. The remake I will pass on. One thing that makes the decision to remake the original dicey is that it was very much a movie of its time and place. You can’t tell the same story in the gentrified, very safe NYC of today.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One of the main problems i have with the majority of vigilante characters in movies is their actions are a response to a single (although usually admittedly horrible) example of crime that affected them personally. They’re never doing it because they realise crime is bad, or the people committing them are bad. It’s all just a hangover from their single (again, admittedly horrible) experience. Nolan’s Batman, for instance, works to provide a wider context, but the other incarnations don’t. As a counterpoint – an extraordinary amount of real-life charity cheerleading does take its starting point in the same way.

    The one interesting thing about Batman in all its incarnations is that Gotham is a big city with an underbelly nearly as big. From the earliest comics onward, it was a story of urban squalour, of everything from street ruffians to crime lords; in other words, even if not clearly stated, Batman is necessary because of societal problems. Clearly every story or episode is going to fixate on a specific criminal; the Penguin, the Joker, Riddler, etc., but they are treated as the symptoms rather than the disease, and Batman, in his Bruce Wayne alter-ego, also tries to use his vast wealth to improve the lot of the people of Gotham.

    It’s also important to note that while Batman is a vigilante, in many of the iterations, he works very closely with Commissioner Gordon, and thus, in a way, is a sort of Dirty Harry figure; to some extent apart from the law, but still in a sense an agent of the law.

    The Nolan films captured this very well, and recaptured the essentially Noir aspects of Batman. Batman is in many ways a better equipped and far better endowed Sam Spade, and certainly fits Chandler’s description “down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean.”

    NB: When I was a kid I recall Death Wish, the later one sin the series, the draw for my 80s generation was the guns as was Rambo and Terminator. Other films especially if they were produced by Canon were know to be blood guts and guns nobody cared about the politics or message.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great comment. Glad to have you kicking around again too.

      re: Vigilantism.
      I think most people are not capable, in our current first world, of just going out and killing other people. It takes something greater than themselves to force them to do that. A death by thugs or drugs, or something, of a family member is the surest way to motivate someone. The idea of it also hasn’t taken off because it isn’t effective in the long run AND you have to do it by yourself. Humans are, for the most part, social creatures. Hence mobs. Mobs are much more common than vigilantes.

      And it takes someone with an ounce of brains to be a vigilante. Those idiots who loot their own neighborhoods during disasters couldn’t be vigilantes if you handed them a loaded gun. They don’t have the moral fortitude to be a vigilante.

      When I watched the original Bronson death wish, I saw that there were 3 or 4 more movies in the franchise. I’ve not bothered watching them as I suspect they got away from the books influence and became real Bronson style movies 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, I didn’t even know the Bruce Willis version was a remake of THAT Death Wish, I just thought it was just another action movie with another generic action title! Shows you how much I know about Hollywood and movies these days.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was talking with a friend yesterday and movies in general came up. We both came to the conclusion that the older we got, the less draw and appeal movies had. Not that we didn’t enjoy them, but the fandom was gone from our watching.

      So, the less you know about hollywood, the better as far as I’m concerned.


  5. I love how you’ve reviewed all three versions of the story. I saw the original movie when I was a kid ages ago but never the reboot and never read the book. I’m really interested in picking up the book and maybe like you watching the films…the old as a refresher and the new just because. This was a cool review.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve been waiting for this triplet of a review 😉 I watched the original movie a long time ago, and only recently learned of the book – the author of the mention shared your opinion, that the book was much better for its deepened psychological portrait of the ambivalent protagonist. The first movie was less gratuitious violence and more an attempt to show the general social mood, a Zeitgeist, if you will 😉 but the later incarnations were rather hard on the eyes… I remember I only watched the second part, and it degenerated quickly to mindless violence.
    I won’t be watching Willis’ reboot if I can help it – doesn’t sound too promising even though I enjoyed my share of Die Hard 😉 In general I agree with Piotrek, reboots are mostly a result of a total brain death of the modern screenwriters 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely never bothered with Death Wish 2-5. Once I saw pictures of Bronson with some big machine gun, well, I knew what territory it was heading into.

      I like Willis but I stayed away from the later Die Hard movies. But it is really hard to recommend his Death Wish to anyone because it just re-treads old territory AND is action/adventure, nothing more.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I liked the old version and the new version. I think I liked Death Wish III the best since he was helping a bunch of old people and it had a bit of humor to it. I didn’t know there was a book and books are always better. Thanks for the review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you liked both versions, then chances are pretty good you’ll enjoy the book.

      So you enjoyed more of the Bronson franchise? They’re are free on prime, are they worth spending the time watching?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. So many Death Wish movies with Bronson out there. I haven’t seen any of them and only remember the recent trailer for Willis’s Death Wish. It was definitely interesting to see that they all had strengths and flaws and that both movies had different interpretations to offer. I guess I’ll aim for the book first if I ever run into and let those movies rest in their corners. Great reviews, sir.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you.

      From what others have said, who have watched later Bronson Death Wish movies, they would appear to be on par with Willis’s version.

      The book is definitely the way to go 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. See, what you just described is what I thought the first movie was going to be like, but it wasn’t. And that is why I avoided it for years.

      Are we talking John Wick level of violence, or just gory?


    1. I was really surprised at how “un-Bronson” the Bronson movie version was 🙂 I guess the later movies were more of return to form for Bronson.

      But the book? Oh man, that was pure goodness….

      Liked by 1 person

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