The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Tuesday, September 02, 2003
CHARLES BRONSON, R.I.P.: What's there to say about the late Charles Bronson? He wasn't a very good actor, really, but like many thespians of limited range he managed to find films well-suited to the few roles he could credibly play. The most famous of those is still Death Wish, a movie much derided for its ideological content, though even its opponents often admit that it's an effective thriller. Roger Ebert calls it "quasi-fascist," which is exactly wrong: the movie is populist and libertarian, urging not a strong government to defeat crime but an independent populace willing to defend itself. The picture's underlying theme is the rural suspicion of the urban, which it raises to the level of high-grade paranoia. It's not a realistic movie, but it's a minor masterpiece of terror and revenge.

It also spawned several sequels, all of which I've seen -- an impressive feat when you consider just how irredeemably rotten most of them are. I can recommend one of them: Death Wish 3, the installment in which the series started to veer into self-parody but had not yet been reduced to a fistful of boring and ridiculous shoot-em-ups. It's a pretty funny movie, and there's a good chance, maybe 60-40, that the humor was intentional. As the hero of DW 3 sets up one elaborate deathtrap after another, he starts to seem less like the vigilante of the earlier and later pictures and more like Wile E. Coyote -- except that Bronson's Acme equipment actually works.


posted by Jesse 5:46 PM
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