In this remake of the 1974 crime classic, Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is a Chicago surgeon who becomes a vigilante after his wife is murdered and his daughter is hospitalized. With the police not being able to help with the murder, Paul decides to take matters into his own hands and bring the ones responsible for the attack on his family to justice. As he kills any criminal he encounters, he soon catches the attention of the media who begin to wonder if he is a grim reaper or a guardian angel.
This is the very first film released by Mirror Releasing, now called United Artists Releasing.
Death Wish contains examples of:
- Adaptational Job Change: In the original novel, Paul was an accountant. In the original film, he was an architect. Here, he's a surgeon.
- Adaptation Origin Connection: In the original Death Wish, the crooks that raped and killed Kersey's family were just a bunch of random crooks that came and went into the New York City dark and Kersey never encounters, because he doesn't knows anything about them other than "they exist". In this Death Wish, they are soldiers of Knox, and Kersey gets the satisfaction of wiping them all out.
- Big Bad: Knox is the one responsible for leading the crooks who killed Kersey's wife.
- Chekhov's Gun: Or rather Chekhov's gun storage unit. A coffee table with a concealed compartment for quick access to a rifle is seen early on, advertised by a gun shop . This, or something similar, is seen again in the film's climax.
- Guns Akimbo: Kersey briefly wields a machine gun and handgun during the final showdown.
- Hollywood Law: Due to the Firearm Owners Protection Act, passed in 1986, it would have been very difficult and expensive for Kersey to legally obtain a fully automatic rifle.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Kersey uses some of his medical knowledge against Joe, one criminal among those who had harmed his family, to get information on the rest.
- Lighter and Softer: While it's still an R-rated, violent movie, it's much lighter than the original 1974 movie and especially Death Sentence. There also isn't any nudity or rape, even though it does come a bit close.
- Manly Tears: Kersey sheds these after his wife's murder and when Jordan awakens from her coma.
- Railing Kill: One mook is killed like this during the final showdown, after being shot with a machine gun and handgun by Kersey.
- Reality Ensues:
- Kersey confronts several thugs harassing a woman and promptly gets his ass handed to him by them.
- Kersey's first outing as a vigilante results in him getting a nasty gash on his left hand from having an improper grip on his gun. "Slide bite" is a relatively common injury among untrained shooters like Kersey, as the two police detective investigating the shooting quickly notice.
- Sequel Hook: Much like the original, the movie ends with Kersey pointing a finger gun at a mugger, suggesting his vigilantism will continue.
- Sympathetic Murderer: There is debate about this among people in Chicago, but most of them view Kersey this way. Even one of the detectives on the case seems to, although he can't prove Kersey did it anyway. Given what his family endured and that all his victims are violent criminals, most of the audience may too.
- Vigilante Man: Just as in the original film, Paul Kersey begins a one-man war against criminals after a criminal gang murders his wife and seriously wounds his daughter.