Cast: Charles Bronson, Hope Lange, Vincent Gardenia, Steven Keats, William Redfield, Stuart Margolin, Stephen Elliott, Kathleen Tolan, Jack Wallace, Fred J. Scollay, Chris Gampel, Robert Kya-Hill, Edward Grover, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Logan, Gregory Rozakis, Floyd Levine, Helen Martin, Hank Garrett, Christopher Guest, Olympia Dukakis
Paul Kersey (Bronson) and his wife, Joanna (Lange) are at a beach, enjoying the sun, clear sky, and salty spray of the sea at the end of a fun-filled vacation. Happy and content with each other, the two return to their home in a well-appointed apartment in New York City. Paul is an architect, able to blend his interest in his work at an upscale firm with his home life. His daughter, Carol (Tolan), and her husband, Jack Toby (Keats) are starting life on their own. When Joanna goes shopping at a local grocery store, an unkempt youth gets her address from a delivery slip. Joanna is back at her apartment with her daughter when the young punk and his thuggish friends, acting as delivery boys, gain access to her place. The thugs (Goldblum, Logan, and Rozakis) are after money and some fun, and they attack Joanna and Carol. Joanna is brutally beaten, and Carol is struck repeatedly and raped. Paul Kersey is told his wife and daughter are in the hospital and rushes over to be at their side. His life is changed forever when he finds Joanna is dead and Carol is severely injured. The Police investigate the case, but make little progress other than linking the attackers to Joanna’s visit to the grocery store. With son-in-law Jack, Paul tries to help the physically recovering Carol back to a normal life, but his daughter is emotionally scarred by the outrage she endured and she slips away from sanity. The tragedy affects Paul’s work performance. His boss decides that a challenging new project at a remote location will be best for Paul and for business. Paul’s temporary assignment is in Tucson, Arizona, where his client Ames Jainchill (Margolin) is planning a new development. The new homes are artfully arranged on the beautiful landscape, but Paul tells Jainchill that the project would never recover the necessary investment. Over the following weeks, Paul works to modify the layout. Jainchill takes Paul to a reconstructed Western frontier town where they see a gunfight reenactment, with guns used to swiftly administer justice. When Paul completes his assignment, Jainchill is very satisfied with the revised designs. Paul is welcomed back at the New York firm, but with Joanna dead and his daughter languishing at a mental institution, his life seems pointless. Paul witnesses a mugging attempt and is shaken by the experience. Although a lifelong pacifist, Paul starts to carry a firearm, a revolver he finds in a presentation box in a gift package Jainchill gave him. When a threatening punk attempts a hold up, Paul shoots him down. Terrified by the encounter, Paul nevertheless experiences a therapeutic effect, a release from helplessness. Unable to identify the thugs that killed Joanna and raped Carol, and in a way satisfying a hidden death wish, Paul goes out armed, ready to confront criminals. New York City’s ruffians see an easy prey in Paul, carrying a grocery bag on a subway or strolling through Central park at night. They find death instead – Paul is a good shot. Frank Ochoa (Gardenia) is the NYPD Detective assigned to find the man who is methodically ridding the city of muggers and assailants. Although the news media and the long-suffering citizens are delighted with the exploits of the unidentified vigilante, the Police resent someone doing the job they are incapable of doing. Paul faces a dual threat, from Detective Ochoa and thousands of cops out looking for him, and from the dangerous criminals he confronts. Based on the novel of the same name by Brian Garfield.