A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Death Wish (1974) starring Charles Bronson loads most of the violence into the front of the movie. Controversial in its day, it's still difficult to watch and definitely not for kids, with a home invasion and sexual assault that clearly implies rape, forced oral sex showing bare buttocks and thrusting, and strong language including "c--t" and "f--k." Bare breasts are visible during the sexual assault. Other violence is mostly frequent shootings by a vigilante taking the law into his own hands; bloody gunshot wounds are sometimes briefly shown. Nonviolent sexual content is some kissing and indirect talk about having sex between a married couple. There's drinking and smoking. Kersey is an antihero who becomes a serial killer, which makes him feel better as he's trying to cope with tragic loss. Strongest messages are about how armed citizens are effective deterrents to violent crime and that guns are just tools like hammers or axes, plus the suggestion that if the police can't defend people, people should defend themselves by actively seeking out criminals and killings them. Any sense of justice is notably lacking.
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What's the story?
Is it any good?
As a crime drama or thriller this movie ultimately falls short, mostly because it doesn't connect messages about vengeance or justice with the main character or the story. Most of the violence in Death Wish (1974), and all of the considerable shock value that makes it unsuitable for kids and teens, is loaded into the first 20 minutes or so. What follows, after a too-long trip to Arizona, are too many scenes of Kersey shooting presumed criminals who have nothing to do with him or the crime committed against his family. Even his daughter's recovery takes a back seat to Kersey wandering the streets at night looking for thugs to kill.
Charles Bronson's breakout portrayal of the tough but quiet vigilante was a fan favorite, spawning no fewer than four sequels and a 2018 remake starring Bruce Willis. Teens may be curious about the original, so be prepared to talk with them, especially about the sexual violence, and also about their thoughts on how people can protect themselves, gun use, and taking the law into your own hands.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Death Wish (1974). Is it realistic? Does it add to the story? How much is OK to show in movies?
What about the strong language? How much is OK for kids to hear? Is the profanity realistic?
Is it ever OK to take the law into your own hands? What if law enforcement isn't effective? Does the movie show that there are consequences for vigilantism? What are they?
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