Posted by martinteller on August 8, 2012
Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) is a bleeding-heart liberal architect/engineer whose family is attacked by savage intruders (in a scene somewhat reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange). His wife dies and his daughter is traumatized into a nearly catatonic state. With New York City trapped under the thumb of rampant crime, Kersey feels helpless. Until he goes on a business trip to the utopian land of Arizona, where everyone has a gun and there’s never ever any crime anywhere, and he gets some ideas for striking back.
Although in a few small ways this movie appears to be condemning Bronson’s spree of vigilante justice, it’s pretty clear that it’s meant to hold him up as a conservative hero who sheds his namby-pamby lefty views and comes up with a real solution to a real problem. It goes to great lengths to portray city life as an unforgiving jungle. Kersey is the victim of no less than FIVE attempted muggings in the space of a few months… although to be fair, he does go seeking them out. The criminals are the kind you see only in the movies, gleefully fucking with random people because hey, the animals run this place, am I right? Kersey becomes a national sensation, and the film falls all over itself reminding you of this every couple of minutes, with absurdly abundant references to his actions in headlines, magazines, billboards and dinner party conversations. Also, the shocking truth that the ineffectual police want to keep secret is that his vigilante tactics work, with muggings way down.
So like Dirty Harry, but somehow even more so, it’s blowback against the liberalism of hippie culture. A conservative wet dream, arguing against gun control and denouncing cities as cesspools of scum where decent folks need to exact their own justice because the nanny state government can’t do nothin’ right. And it’s not really that entertaining, either, but maybe that’s just my political bias speaking. The violence is not particularly original, or shocking, or much of anything. Bronson is a good ensemble player, but as leading man he doesn’t do much for me. The supporting cast is largely unremarkable as well, although it does feature the first roles for Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Guest and apparently Denzel Washington (I didn’t spot Denzel, but that’s what IMDb says). The cinematography is appropriately gritty but not especially intriguing. I was excited to see that the score was done by Herbie Hancock, but it feels like a throwaway job, some uninspired fusion noodling. I will say that Kersey’s arc is fairly believable, and if you view him as a man driven insane by paranoia, he’s an interesting character.
I really didn’t enjoy this much, but maybe I’m blinded by my disgust with the film’s messages. I’d like to think I’m reading it wrong, but the Arizona scenes in particular don’t leave much room for doubt. Rating: Poor (47)