Vigilante Films and the Left

On Tuesday, director Joe Carnahan announced on Twitter that he had embarked on a remake of the Charles Bronson vigilante classic Death Wish. The main question, for any director approaching such a topic, especially with source material as infamous as Death Wish, is “Have you read any reviews lately?”

Vincent Canby, in the New York Times, dubbed the original Death Wish “a despicable movie, one that raises complex questions in order to offer bigoted, frivolous, oversimplified answers.” Dirty Harry, whose 40th anniversary passed in December, attracted similar distaste. Pauline Kael savaged the film’s “fascist medievalism,” and described it as a “single-minded attack against liberal values.” Variety called it a “specious, phony glorification of the police and of police brutality.” Roger Ebert condemned its “fascist moral position.”

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