The movie series that typecast Charles Bronson
as Paul Kersey, the vigilante
with the ever-diminishing family. It started out as a somewhat realistic portrayal of an average man refusing to submit to criminals. After his first revenge killing, he vomits; he is not the cold-blooded, invincible action hero
. In 1974 this may have been social commentary
, since the protagonist is initially portrayed as a liberal. After his wife's murder at the hands of thugs, he changes his ideology and decides to hunt down those responsible.
The following films follow the same template. 1982's sequel involves the rape and murder of his housekeeper and daughter. From here on the films delve purely into a sadistic form of revenge, void of any redeeming value or reason. What is also interesting is that the hoodlums seem to have no reason either. At best, it is mindless, escapist fare.
1985's Death Wish 3 proves that the most. At the end, SPOILER the leader smirks at Kersey as he unveils his bulletproof vest. Kersey replies with a bazooka. In a childish way, seeing the bad guy getting blown through a brick wall is mildly satisfying, but in a hollow way END SPOILER. Bad guys in these movies are just that - pure evil. Pure evil is easier for the audience to digest since they are more acceptable for the good guy to dispose of, but it is hollow since there is no reason for them to act that way.
The fourth installment was released at the height of the Just Say No campaign in 1987 and is just as good as any other propaganda. After a friend's daughter dies from an overdose, Kersey singlehandedly cleanses New York of the drug menace. Like the previous movies, it does not explore the problem nor does it offer a solution.
The fifth and final installment in 1994 is even more laughable as Kersey's girlfriend is being harassed by the mafia. You can guess the rest.
So what moral can we derive from this series? In short: if you know Paul Kersey, make final arrangements as soon as possible.