Death Wish (film series)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Death Wish
Directed byMichael Winner
J. Lee Thompson
Allan A. Goldstein
Eli Roth
Based onDeath Wish
by Brian Garfield
StarringCharles Bronson (1974-1994)
Bruce Willis (2018)
Distributed by
Release date
CountryUnited States
BudgetTotal (6 films):
$61 million
Box officeTotal (6 films):
$87.2 million

The Death Wish franchise is an American action-crime-drama film series based on the 1972 novel by Brian Garfield. The films follow the character Paul Kersey, portrayed by Charles Bronson in the original series, and Bruce Willis in the 2018 remake. While the first film received mixed reviews, the subsequent sequels, as well as the remake, were panned by critics and the series made $87 million against a combined production budget of $61 million.

Main characters[edit]

Kersey was born in New York City in the early 1920s. Kersey's father was an English-American who originated from Northern England and his mother comes from Provo, Utah. Kersey's Norman English ancestor, Pierre Whítmoré Keèrsye, anglicized his surname to Kersey. Kersey served in World War II from 1944 to 1945. In 1953, he served in the Korean War in the medical corps. In the late 1950s, he traveled to New York City to settle down.[1]


Crew/detail Released
Death Wish
Death Wish II
Death Wish 3
Death Wish 4: The Crackdown
Death Wish V: The Face of Death
Death Wish
Director Michael Winner J. Lee Thompson Allan A. Goldstein Eli Roth
Producer(s) Dino De Laurentiis
Hal Landers
Bobby Roberts
Menahem Golan
Yoram Globus
Menahem Golan
Yoram Globus
Michael Winner
Poncho Kohner Damian Lee Roger Birnbaum
Writer(s) Wendell Mayes David Engelbach Don Jakoby (as Michael Edmonds) Gail Morgan Hickman Michael Colleary
Allan A. Goldstein
Joe Carnahan
Composer Herbie Hancock Jimmy Page Jimmy Page
Mike Moran
John Bisharat
Paul MacCallum
Valentine MacCallum
Terry Plumeri Ludwig Göransson
Editor(s) Bernard Gribble Michael Winner
Julian Semilian
Arnold Crust Peter Lee-Thompson Patrick Rand Mark Goldblatt
Cinematographer Arthur J. Ornitz Thomas Del Ruth
Richard H. Kline
John Stanier Gideon Porath Curtis Petersen Rogier Stoffers
Production Company Dino De Laurentiis Corporation The Cannon Group, Inc.
Golan-Globus Productions
The Cannon Group, Inc. 21st Century Film Corporation
Death Wish 5 Productions
Cave 76
Distributor Paramount Pictures
Columbia Pictures
Filmways Pictures
Columbia Pictures
Cannon Film Distributors Trimark Pictures Annapurna Pictures
Running time 94 minutes 88 minutes 92 minutes 99 minutes 95 minutes 108 minutes
Release date July 24, 1974 February 19, 1982 November 1, 1985 November 6, 1987 January 14, 1994 March 2, 2018

Death Wish (1974)[edit]

Paul Kersey is an architect[2] who served in the Korean War in the medical corps, and he lives in New York City. One day, three street punks posing as grocery delivery boys break into his apartment while he's at work. They beat up Paul's wife Joanna and rape his married daughter Carol Toby, spray-painting both of them & the wall of their apartment "just for fun." Joanna later dies of her injuries, and Carol is left catatonic. Paul's life is ripped apart by this.

Paul's boss decides that Paul needs to get out of New York for a while, so he sends him to Tucson, Arizona to meet with a client. There, Paul witnesses a mock gunfight at Old Tucson Studios, a reconstructed Western frontier town that is often used as a movie set. Paul's client gets him interested in guns. It turns out that Paul grew up around guns and is a good shot himself. When Paul returns to New York, he discovers that his client has given him a .32 Colt Police Positive revolver as a gift. When the police are unable to find the rapists, Paul sets out to find them himself. Paul begins patrolling the streets, killing street criminals as he encounters them. While his obsessive search for street justice sickens him at first, Paul begins to enjoy it as Detective Frank Ochoa tries to find the man who is doing the police department's job for them. The public sees Paul as a hero. As a result, Ochoa and the city government would have a political nightmare on their hands if they actually arrested him. However, Paul never finds the three punks who murdered his wife and raped his daughter.

One night, when Kersey was injured after another hunt for muggers, he is hospitalized. Ochoa confronts him, revealing his willingness to make a deal to throw away Kersey's weapon (recovered by Officer Jackson Reilly) if Kersey will leave New York. Kersey made good on his part of the deal, moving to Chicago (as seen at the end of the first Death Wish). As revealed in Death Wish 3, one of the policemen involved in this conspiracy was Richard Shriker, who agreed to maintain Kersey's secret in line with Ochoa's edicts. According to Officer Reiner in Death Wish 4, Kersey's wife died in 1975, therefore the aforementioned events from the first Death Wish film took place either early or late in that year or in 1976 (based on the snow seen at Mrs. Kersey's funeral.) Ochoa stated in Death Wish II that Kersey's slaying of muggers took place "four years" ago during Death Wish II (see below), which appeared in 1982 (see below).

Death Wish II (1982)[edit]

Kersey and his daughter Carol, who is still catatonic, now live in Los Angeles because Paul accepted a deal from the NYPD to leave town so they wouldn't tell anyone that he was the vigilante. Paul now has a new woman in his life, KABC news reporter Geri Nichols. One day while he's out with Carol and Geri, he is mugged by a gang of five punks. Paul fights back, but they get away. The muggers go to his house, gag, rape, and murder Kersey's housekeeper. They then wait for Paul to return home and knock him unconscious and kidnap and rape Carol. The assault brings her out of her coma and she tries to get away by jumping through the second story window, but she dies when she is impaled on an iron fence stake. Beside himself with grief and rage, Paul dedicates his life to avenging Carol. He rents a ratty hotel room under another name, and starts looking for the rapists. When the LAPD deduces that they have a vigilante on their hands, they decide to consult with the NYPD, who fear that Kersey is killing criminals again. They send Ochoa to deal with Kersey quietly; they fear that if he is caught he will reveal that the deal they made with him. The events mentioned above involving his daughter's death take place in 1981 (as stated by Officer Reiner in Death Wish 4, Kersey's daughter died in 1981).

Death Wish 3 (1985)[edit]

As seen at the end of Death Wish II (in which three shots are heard over the end of the closing credits), Kersey resumed his mugger slayings even after killing the final member of the gang who kidnapped and murdered his daughter. Richard Shriker of the NYPD kept tabs on Kersey's activities, or at least activities he suspected Kersey had a hand in. Namely, Shriker recalled reading of six mugger slayings in thirty-six hours in L.A., four gang members slain in Kansas City (Shriker does not specify whether this was in Missouri or Kansas), and two mugger-rapists in Chicago. Shriker and Kersey's paths intersect again, as Shriker puts it "ten years" after Shriker's found out Kersey was the New York vigilante (therefore present day). Paul Kersey returns to New York to visit his friend Charley, who lives in one of the worst parts of New York City. But when Paul arrives at Charley's apartment, he finds Charley dying after a vicious beating by a gang led by Manny Fraker, and the police enter the apartment and find Paul standing over Charley's body. Paul is arrested for the murder, but police chief Richard S. Shriker offers a deal: Paul can kill all the criminals he wants if he keeps the cops informed about the death count. Though Kersey says that he stopped his mugger slayings, Shriker releases Paul to go after Fraker. Paul moves into Charley's apartment in a decaying building in the middle of a bombed out gang war zone. The building is populated by a group of elderly tenants who are absolutely terrified of Fraker and his gang, who control the neighborhood. Among the tenants are Charley's friend Bennett, an old watch repairman who keeps a couple of machine guns in his closet. There is also an elderly Jewish couple who live on the first floor. Paul buys a .475 Wildey Magnum pistol with big-game cartridges, spends an afternoon hand loading the bullets, and loads up for war against Fraker.

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)[edit]

Evidently, Kersey had largely retired from slaying muggers shortly after Death Wish III, since in Death Wish 4, Phil Nozaki mentions a mugger shot downtown two years previous to the events of Death Wish 4, to which Officer Reiner responds by saying that "the vigilante retired years ago". In any event, Kersey kept regular residence in L.A., regardless of his breaking off his mugger slayings. Paul Kersey is back in Los Angeles, and is dating reporter Karen Sheldon, who has a teenage daughter named Erica. While Erica is at an arcade with her boyfriend Randy Viscovich, Erica dies of a crack cocaine overdose. Later, Randy goes back to the arcade, with Kersey following him. Randy confronts JoJo, the dealer that Erica got the crack from. Randy tells JoJo that he's going to the police, but Jojo kills him to keep him quiet. Kersey shows up and shoots JoJo with a .380 Walther PPK pistol, and watches him land on the electrical roof of the bumper-car ride, where he is electrocuted. Next, Paul gets a note and a phone call from publisher Nathan White, who tells him that he knows about the death of JoJo. Nathan explains to Kersey that his daughter had died of an overdose, so he wants to hire Kersey to wipe out the drug trade in L.A. -- and in particular to target Ed Zacharias and Jack Romero, rival drug kingpins who are the city's two main drug suppliers. Kersey asks for a few days to think about it, and accepts Nathan's offer. Nathan supplies Kersey with weapons and information so he can go after Zacharias and Romero. Kersey is able to orchestrate an inter-gang war between the Zacharias and Romero crime organizations. After most of the two warring factions are killed, Kersey meets again with Nathan White, but is almost killed. After escaping, Kersey realizes that White is not who he claims to be, and is actually a drug kingpin himself, who has tricked Kersey into removing his competition. Kersey's girlfriend (Karen) is subsequently taken captive and ultimately murdered by "White". Immediately after Karen is murdered, Kersey is able to kill the last remaining drug kingpin. Reiner is able to approach Kersey after his last killing. With his gun drawn and his sights on Kersey, the detective demands that Kersey surrender. Kersey walks off, stating "Do whatever you have to."

Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994)[edit]

Kersey's secret identity as the vigilante was effectively blown in Death Wish 4, as Officer Reiner of the LAPD, less sympathetic than Chief Richard Shriker or Detective Frank Ochoa, discovered it. Reiner stated he would arrest Kersey as the latter walked away. In any event, as revealed in Death Wish V (though no direct reference to Reiner's discovery of Kersey's identity) Kersey entered the Witness Protection Program and assumed the alias Paul Stewart in New York City after meeting with the District Attorney of New York. Seven years would pass before Kersey's peace again became interrupted. New York's garment district has turned into Dodge City when mobster Tommy O'Shea muscles in on the fashion trade of his ex-wife Olivia Regent. Olivia is engaged to Paul Kersey, who provides a sense of security for her and her daughter Chelsea. Olivia isn't impressed when Tommy tortures her manager, Big Al, so Tommy hires an enforcer named Freddie Flakes, a master of disguise. Freddie dons women's clothing to follow Olivia into a ladies' room, where he smashes her face into a mirror, causing permanent disfigurement. In the offices of D.A. Tony Hoyle and his associate Hector Vasquez, Paul and Olivia vow to see to it that Tommy be prosecuted. Later, Freddie and two of his men disguise themselves as cops, infiltrate Olivia's apartment, and shoot her dead. Kersey follows Tommy's thug Chickie Paconi to the Paconi family bistro, where Kersey kills him by lacing his cannoli with cyanide. Next, Paul tricks Freddie out of his home and blows him up with a bomb rigged ball. After dispatching the corrupt Hector Vasquez with a .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson Model 629 revolver concealed in a doll, Kersey discovers that Vasquez is in cahoots with Tommy. Using Chelsea as bait, Tommy lures Paul to Olivia's factory for a confrontation.

The franchise was originally going to continue on without Bronson's involvement, and a sixth film titled Death Wish 6: The New Vigilante was in the works. However, when the studio went bankrupt, the idea never went ahead leaving The Face of Death as the final film in the franchise.

Film based on novel's sequel[edit]

The film Death Sentence (2007) was based loosely on the Death Wish novel's sequel of the same name. The film stars Kevin Bacon as Nick Hume, a man who takes the law into his own hands when his son is murdered by a gang as an initiation ritual.


In January 2012, The Hollywood Reporter stated that a remake was confirmed and would be written and directed by Joe Carnahan.[3] Carnahan left the film in 2013 and director Gerardo Naranjo was then attached to the project. This version also never came into fruition.

In March 2016, Paramount and MGM announced that Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado would direct the remake with Bruce Willis starring.[4]

In June 2016, the website Deadline Hollywood reported that director Eli Roth helmed the remake, which was released on March 2, 2018.[5]

Video game[edit]

The third film in the original series, was made into a video game of the same name by Gremlin Graphics for the ZX Spectrum,[6] Commodore 64, MSX and Amstrad CPC. In the game, the player controls Paul Kersey in the streets and buildings in a free-roaming, all-out gunfight with gangsters. It was one of the goriest games of its time, featuring multiple weapons with detailed, different damage patterns and the possibility to kill civilians


In 2006, film historian Paul Talbot released Bronson's Loose!: The Making of the Death Wish Films, which covers the making of the five films with interviews conducted with author Brian Garfield, director Michael Winner, producer Bobby Roberts, producer Pancho Kohner, and more.[7]

In 2010, novelist Christopher Sorrentino published a book-length monograph, also called Death Wish, on the original film. In the course of a deep analysis of the film's content, Sorrentino declares Death Wish to be mythic and apolitical, and, using The New York Times's Vincent Canby as a prime example, holds it up as an instance when reviewers used a film's perceived political incorrectness as a pretext to savage it.[8]

Critical reception[edit]

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic
Death Wish 65% (26 reviews)[9] 51 (7 reviews)[10]
Death Wish II 33% (18 reviews)[11] 11 (7 reviews)[12]
Death Wish 3 6% (17 reviews)[13] 18 (9 reviews)[14]
Death Wish 4: The Crackdown 14% (7 reviews)[15] 46 (6 reviews)[16]
Death Wish V: The Face of Death 0% (5 reviews)[17] 25 (6 reviews)[18]
Death Wish 17% (136 reviews)[19] 31 (32 reviews)[20]
Average 22% 31


  1. ^ "Paul Kersey Quotes". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2006-01-29.
  2. ^ DVD jacket
  3. ^ "'The Grey' Director Joe Carnahan to Remake 'Death Wish'". Retrieved October 5, 2012. Published online January 31, 2012.
  4. ^ Fleming, Jr, Mike (March 4, 2016). "'Death Wish' Revamp With Bruce Willis To Be Helmed By 'Big Bad Wolves' Directors Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado". Deadline Hollywood.
  5. ^ Fleming, Jr, Mike (June 20, 2016). "Eli Roth To Direct Bruce Willis In 'Death Wish' Remake". Deadline Hollywood.
  6. ^ "''Death Wish 3'' at". Retrieved 2012-07-11.
  7. ^ Talbot, Paul. Bronson's Loose!: The Making of the Death Wish Films. iUniverse, Inc., 2006
  8. ^ Sorrentino, Christopher. Death Wish. New York: Soft Skull Press, 2010
  9. ^ "Death Wish". Rotten Tomatoes. 1 January 1974. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Death Wish II". Rotten Tomatoes. 1 January 1982. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Death Wish 3". Rotten Tomatoes. 1 January 1985. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  14. ^ "Death Wish 3 Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  15. ^ "Death Wish 4: The Crackdown". Rotten Tomatoes. 1 January 1987. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  16. ^ "Death Wish 4: The Crackdown Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  17. ^ "Death Wish V: The Face of Death". Rotten Tomatoes. 1 January 1994. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  18. ^ "Death Wish V: The Face of Death Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  19. ^ "Death Wish (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  20. ^ "Death Wish Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 16, 2018.

External links[edit]