Mark Steyn combines his movie reviewer and pundit roles to take on the 1974 movie Death Wish, in which Charles Bronson plays a liberal mugged by reality, based on the 1972 book by Brian Garfield. The movie, writes Steyn, is a
remarkable social artifact, a valuable record of the day before yesterday – 1974 – when New York and many other American cities seemed in large part ungovernable. By the time of the 2003 power outage in the Big Apple, it was all over, and disappointed reporters waxed nostalgic as they tried to explain why this time there had been no reprise of the looting rampage that accompanied the 1977 blackout. Back then, much of New York seemed to be permanently trembling on the brink of social collapse, and literally switching off the lights was a mere formality.
...Bronson plays a successful Manhattan architect, a mild-mannered conscientious objector from the Korean War, and a proponent of gun control. In other words, he's a "bleeding-heart liberal", as a colleague labels him during an early exchange that manages with remarkable economy to alight on all the problems of the day: rising crime, white flight, high taxes, useless police. Bronson's character is untouched by these troubles until muggers (led by a young Jeff Goldblum) break into his apartment, rape his daughter and murder his wife. The cops tell him there's virtually no chance the perpetrators will ever be found: "In the city, that's just the way it is." [Mark At The Movies, August 8, 2015, emphases added]
For a discussion of the movie, see Paul Kersey's DEATH WISH At Forty: Are We Allowed To “Notice” Race NOW? (Kersey has, by an astonishing coincidence, the same name as the Bronson character in Death Wish.)
However, I actually read the book, in which the hero was actually called Paul Benjamin, and was an accountant. Here's something I wrote comparing the racial aspect of the crime in the book versus the movie:
Detective: "She did give us something of a description, though.”
Paul Benjamin: “Oh?”
Paul Benjamin: “Well, isn’t there a method you people use of reconstructing faces with drawings of various features?”
Detective: “The Identikit, yes, sir. She didn’t seem to feel up to that.”
Paul Benjamin: “Well, she should be feeling better within a few days.”
However, in the brutal attack scene, in which Hope Lange plays the mother, the two woman are brutalized not by two Puerto Ricans and a black, but by, going by the actors' races, an Irish-American, a a Greek-American, and, in his first-ever appearance on film—Jeff Goldblum.
That was not, and is not, the face of street crime in New York, but it's the face Hollywood wants to show us. And street crime in New York is coming back, a combination of increased anti-white hate in the Age of Obama, and the election of Bill de Blasio.
Steyn ends his piece by saying
Bronson's first outing as Paul Kersey represents a rare moment when Hollywood tapped into a genuine populist anger, as opposed to mere cocktail-party causes. By the Nineties even Democrats felt obliged at least to talk tough on crime, to the point where in most American cities the lawless dystopia of Death Wish came to seem as remote as anything in a Miramax BritLit adaptation. It's said that a neoconservative is a liberal who's been mugged. That's what de Laurentiis, Winner and Bronson gave us in Death Wish: a liberal mugged by reality, in one of the defining documents of a wretched decade. Reading some or other story of New York's decline the other day, I found myself musing on when some studio or other would be announcing a reboot of this franchise. But I wonder if they'd dare...<