As the horizontal screen banner on SKY News informed the world of the passing of the film director Michael Winner, my immediate thoughts were of a man who had lived life to the full.
Most people are fortunate to have one successful career, but Michael Winner was an exception. A successful film director from the 60s to the 90s, he then became a noted and respected restaurant critic whose Sunday Times column, ‘Winner’s Dinners’ about food and restaurants was appreciated by many. Filing his final report in December 2012, the love of rich gourmet food and fine wines finally caught up with Winner and he succumbed to liver cancer on 21st January.
It is however his work as a film director which will endure. For me he leaves an impressive catalogue. Throughout the 1960s Winner specialised in socially-observant comedies such as The Jokers (1966) and I’ll Never Forget What’s ’isname (1967), both starring Oliver Reed.
The Jokers did well in America. In 1970 he made Lawman, a low-budget Western starring Burt Lancaster,following it up with another Western, Chato’s Land. The film starred Charles Bronson as an Indian hunted by a posse after the murder of a sheriff. Critics complained that the film was ‘bloodthirsty and overlong’, but it proved popular with the public.
Winner’s greatest success came in 1974 with Death Wish. The film stars Charles Bronson as an architect whose wife is brutally murdered and his daughter raped. Failed by the justice system, he locates and takes his own bloody revenge on the perpetrators.
Death Wish and its two sequels struck a chord with urban Britain and America where so- called ‘liberal’ politicians were perceived to have tipped the scales of justice against the victims of crime.
I have to admit to being a fan of Michael Winner’s films. At the same time, I know that they run contrary to my Christian faith. Let me explain. The Death Wish films are essentially about individuals taking revenge when wronged. As a believer I always take my cue from what the Bible has to say.
On the matter of vengeance, the scriptures are very clear.......love trumps revenge and retaliation........not an easy course to take as a hurting victim of injustice.
The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Christians in Rome, who themselves had suffered terrible persecution, had this to say:
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay’, says the Lord. On the contrary:
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”.