The Death Wish series contains five movies about Charles Bronson going around beating up and killing bad guys that are somewhere between half his age to one fourth of his age.
Remember when action movies contained blood and boobs worth an R-rating? When action movies had real explosions and no CGI? When action movies starred real men and not Shia LaBeouf? This was the age when the manliest man of the twentieth century roamed the silver screen, his name was Charles Bronson and this is the story of his Magnum Opus.
Death Wish tells the story of inner city architect Paul Kersey whose wife is killed, and daughter raped by muggers. Since the cops are unable to catch the offenders Kersey decides to cope with the loss of his wife by killing random strangers that try to mug him. So his plan is basically to kill every mugger in New York and hope that eventually he will have killed the right ones without even knowing.
Death Wish is based on John Garfield's novel by the same name (see: 8 Kick-Ass Movies You Didn't Know Were Based on Books and 8 Worst Places to Steal a Movie Idea), and it was directed by Michael Winner. When released Death Wish became quite controversial because some people believed it inspired people to go out and kill each other, and we all know that murder was a quite an uncommon thing before 1974.
One day while Paul Kersey is at work his wife is murdered and his daughter raped by Jeff Goldblum. This does unfortunately mean that we get introduced to, perhaps, the biggest douchebag of '70s cinema, Kersey's son-in-law Jack. All he does is whine, sure his wife was raped, but still he whines a lot. 2 seconds later the movies second most annoying character, patrolman Joe Charles, is introduced. He may only have three scenes, but his idea that "Kersey" is pronounced like "Kirsie" makes us want to jam our fingers as deep into our ears as possible every time he speaks.
Trough events to long to care to recite Kersey get a hold of a gun. Now the fun can begin. He goes straight to the park and shoots a mugger. He continues to do so over the next few days, and it's not long until the cops realise their dealing with a vigilante. They put asthmatic, cigar smoking Police Detective Frank Ochoa on the case.
Eventually the cops are lead to Kersey due to a grocery bag he left on one of the crime scenes, and soon they are sure that Kersey is their man. They can however not arrest in fear of making him a martyr. Luckily for them one night while he is out looking for someone to kill Kersey gets shot and passes out. When he is in the hospital Ochoa pays him a visit and tells him he either has to move to Chicago or go to prison. Due to an unfondness of sodomy he chooses Chicago. Upon arrival in Chicago he sees some punks hassling a young girl at the airport. While helping her pick up her stuff he turns towards the punks and gives them the finger gun.
In 1982 we rejoin Paul Kersey who, despite moving to Chicago, now lives in L.A. with his daughter and girlfriend. As we all learnt from tagline to Die Hard 2 lightning can strike twice and apparently this goes for rape too. This time it's his daughter and maid end up at the wrong end of a rapist's penis, also they die.
Death Wish II is also helmed by Michael Winner. Originally producer Menahem Golan was going to direct it himself, but Bronson demanded that Winner should return as director. Most likely because Golan's previous film was the horribly bad Enter the Ninja.
One day punks kills Kersey's maid and abducts his daughter. They take his daughter to an abandoned warehouse, where they're going to rape her. She realises what is going on and she decides to escape by jumping trough a window.
When the police notifies Kersey of her death he decides to screw them since he this time saw the punks and can kill them himself. Over the next few days he kills two of them, and three other criminals who were hanging out with them at the time. With five dead hoodlums the police soon realise that they are dealing with a vigilante. Then one of them remembers that there was a vigilante in New York a couple of years back. So they contact the NYPD for help on how to deal with it. Since the NYPD once had Kersey, and let him go, they send their best man to look into it. No wait, they send Ochoa.
One night Ochoa is stalking Kersey and they end up in shootout with three of the remaining rapists and a man with rainbow suspenders. One of the rapists escapes, but Kersey doesn't chase after him because Ochoa has been shot. Ochoa tells Kersey to "get that motherfucker for him" and then he dies. Kersey fulfills his dying request by electrocuting "that motherfucker". There is also some junk about his girlfriend leaving him.
In 1985 Paul Kersey did not only return to the silver screen, but also to New York when he goes to visit an old army buddy. Just as everyone else Kersey has known he dies and now Kersey must face a ruthless street gang.
For the last time in the franchise Michael Winner holds the directors chair. Although often considered to be the fan favourite of the five the movie was heavily bashed by critics and is deemed 0% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, the lowest of the series. Even here at Cracked it was named the worst vigilante movie of all time (See: 6 Movie Formulas That Must Be Stopped).
Upon arrival in New York Kersey finds his friend in a pool of blood. Two seconds later the cops bust in the door and arrests Kersey for the murder. The police chief recognizes Kersey as the man brought in suspected of the vigilante killings back in the days. He offers him deal: Kersey can go if he promises to kill the street gang. Kersey accepts the deal and is turned loose.
Kersey takes over his deceased friend's apartment and starts hanging with his army buddy's friend Bennett and his Mexican neighbour Manny. Manny will work as a Robin to Bronson's Batman.
Holy gee Bat-Bronson!
Over the next few days Bronson beats up and kills random tugs in the street, but when he kills some guy named the Giggler, man, the gang decides that it's payback time. In Death Wish that means its rape o'clock, and this time its Manny's wife that gets the unwanted penetration. She is rushed to the hospital, but as the doctor so delicately puts it, she's expired.
The street gang continues their rampage by killing and injuring residents of the apartment building, including putting Bennett in the hospital. Eventually a riot breaks out and it's up to Bronson to clear the streets. He does so with a World War 2 machine gun that Bennett just have laying around. So there is no surprise that the bodycount stacks up for this one. Eventually Bronson kills the gang leader with a mail order grenade launcher, and the riot stops.
Oh, did we mention they made a video game based on it? Well they did.
In 1987 Paul Kersey finally takes on an opponent even remotely the same age as him: drugs. Kersey joins Ronald Reagan's war on drugs in what might be the finest propaganda movie ever put to screen when his girlfriend's daughter ODs. Kersey kills everyone related to drugs in L.A within two weeks, which just goes to show that if you set your mind to it anything is possible.
Death Wish 4: The Crackdown is the directed by Oscar nominee* J. Lee Thompson and Bronson said it was the last Death Wish movie he would do. It's an entry you either love or hate, it got mostly poor reviews, but some actually praised it for getting more serious after the third entry. This goes to show how over the top that one was.
Kersey is back in L.A. and everything is going fine until Kersey makes the mistake of saying that he feels towards his girlfriend's daughter as she was his own. She immediately dies from a drug overdose.
Kersey later finds and kills the dealer that sold her the drugs. Ssoon after he is contacted by a mysterious man who wants to fund Kersey's war on drugs and will provide him with everything he needs. Kersey then starts systematically killing people involved in the organization, one of them is Danny Trejo (See: The 20 Best "That Guys" of All Time).
The two main drug lords in L.A., Ed Zacharias and the Romero brothers, starts getting suspicious and they agree to meet and discuss the problem of people getting killed. Since he is bugging Zacharias' phone Kersey knows about this meeting and kills everyone who attends.
After killing both families Kersey goes to tell his mysterious sugar daddy about his success only to learn that the man who has been helping him is a criminal who has used him to get control over the drug traffic in L.A. After surviving an assassination attempt Kersey receives a message that his girlfriend been has kidnapped. Kersey arms up with an M-16 with grenade launcher and goes to the roller disco for a final showdown.
After killing all the mandatory incompetent henchmen Kersey finds himself in the roller disco's parking lot faced with the villain. In lack of an original ending, Kersey blows him away with the grenade launcher. Also, his girlfriend totally dies.
* Not for this movie
Apparently the Alzheimer that would later kill Charles Bronson had already struck him in 1994 because despite his statement that the fourth would be that last we got Death Wish V: The Face of Death. This time Kersey must fight the notorious Irish fashion mob.
Originally it was going to be helmed by Steve Carver, director of such Chuck Norris classics as An Eye for an Eye and Lone Wolf McQuade. Because of budget problems it was in the end helmed by Allan A. Goldstein, the man that would later bring the world 2001: A Space Travesty. Critics and most of the few fans still following the series sheared the same opinion on the film: it fucking stunk. Plans for making a sixth Bronsonless installment of the series entitled Death Wish VI: The New Vigilante was announced. Luckily bankruptcy made sure it never happened.
Since last time Paul Kersey has moved back to New York, and for some reason New York has moved to Canada. He has a new fiance who runs a successful fashion house. Unfortunately her ex-husband, the Irish mob boss Tommy O'Shea, uses her business to launder money. When she doesn't want to play ball any more Tommy has her whacked. Kersey tries to let the police sort it out, but when O'Shea uses the fact that he is his daughter's father to get custody of her he sees no other solution than to kill every member of the Irish mafia. All 8 members.
After Kersey has killed a couple of his men, with amongst other a cannoli, O'Shea has had enough and wants Kersey killed. He uses his daughter as bait to lure Kersey into a trap. Unfortunately this trap consists of three obviously blind henchmen firing guns randomly around them. Kersey easily kills all three of them. Now only Tommy and his second in command, Sal, are left. Sal comes after Kersey with a knife, but ends up in some kind of grinder that for unknown reasons is placed in the fashion house. After a short struggle Kersey cuts Tommy in the face with a broken bottle and pushes him into a strategically placed pool filled with acid, we swear we didn't make that up.
Death Wish II
Death Wish 3
Death Wish V: The Face of Death