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Chapter 41: Death Wish

Death Wish is a superb movie, the best hero-and-vengeance picture since Dirty Harry. Bronson, an architect whose young family has been destroyed by muggers, drops his namby-pamby left-liberalism, and begins to pack a gun, defending himself brilliantly and uncompromisingly against a series of muggers who infest New York City. Yet he never kills the innocent, or commits excesses. Naturally, even though he is only defending himself against assault, the police, who have failed to go after the muggers and who acknowledge the fall in the crime rate due to Bronson’s activities, devote their resources to pursuing him instead of the criminals who terrorize New York. It is a great and heroic picture, a picture demonstrating one man’s successful fight for justice.

As might be expected, Death Wish has been subjected to hysterical attacks by the left-liberal critics who acknowledge the power and technical qualities of the picture, which they proceed to denounce for its “fascist ideology” (self-defense by victims against crime) and its “pornography of violence” (in a just cause). Bronson is attacked for his “wooden acting,” although this is by far his best acting performance in years, far better than in The Mechanic, where the violence was hailed by the critics precisely because it was meaningless and not in defense against aggression. Don’t miss Death Wish; it says more about “the urban problem” than a dozen “message” documentaries, and it helps bring back heroism to the movies.

[Reprinted from Libertarian Forum 6, no. 8 (1974).]