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The Uneasy Evolution of the "Death Wish" Series

Paul Kersey never set out to be a hero. Following his 1974 debut, in the successful though explosively provocative first film of the Death Wish series, and after a string of four widely-lambasted sequels and an even more derided remake, many think he never should have been. As played by Charles Bronson across the five preliminary features, and by Bruce Willis in the newest incarnation, this character, an initially middling and mild-mannered architect (surgeon in the remake), is routinely, mostly unwittingly, thrust into a world of incessant, brutal violence. His quest for revenge is at first a primal and fathomable reaction to an assault on his wife and daughter (the former dies as a result, the latter is left in a catatonic/comatose state), but growing ever more convoluted and pitiless, his subsequent forays into vigilante justice attain varying degrees of clich├ęd, cartoonish excess. No longer was his target an almost

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