Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Death Wish II (1982)

Charles Bronson returns as Paul Kersey (architect by day, vigilante by night) in this popular sequel.

It may be a new city but the evil scumbags are the same all over and it's not too long before Kersey finds his life ripped asunder once more. Basically, he's not really a guy that you want to be close to. Bad things tend to happen to people that he cares about. This time, instead of just a random killing spree, specific targets are in mind. A bunch of criminal lowlife types who will rue the day that they ever decided to have some fun at the expense of Paul Kersey.

With everything raised up a notch (the death scenes, the bodycount, the implausibility), this feels almost like an entry in a slasher movie franchise with Bronson playing the baddie that audiences end up rooting for. He's the main draw and, despite the way in which this sequel feels more exploitative and generally grubbier than the first movie, makes for good company in a world full of squalor and injustice.

Michael Winner is back to direct, working from a script by David Engelbach, and does very well with the strange mix of entertainment and harsh violence. Of course, the subject matter may turn many people off but the film actually does well in walking a fine line between glorifying the violence shown and reminding people of pain and loss (one scene featuring someone jumping from a window was particularly wince-inducing). It's certainly a less complex movie than the first outing but we see Kersey affected by his own actions, even if he seems just fine with his personal choices.

Bronson is great in the role, just as he was the first time around, and Vincent Gardenia also does well when his character gets to return for a small amount of screentime. Jill Ireland (possibly best known for being the wife of Charles Bronson) does okay but I've never been her biggest fan - scenes focusing on her character always remind me of the sad moments when Paul Daniels would start to interrupt his many wonderful magic tricks to showcase an illusion performed by "the lovely Debbie McGee". The punks and scumbags are all punky and scumbaggish, and one of them is played by a certain Laurence Fishburne III, and it's fun to see them get their expected comeuppance.

Music fans will enjoy the soundtrack by one Mr. Jimmy Page, Charles Bronson fans will enjoy Charles Bronson and Michael Winner fans will enjoy remembering why they used to think he was a director with some talent years before he started selling insurance on TV and generally getting on the nerves of the nation.



  1. I've come to see this one as just sort of a time-filler between the original and the truly insane third installment (which I've covered myself):

    It's really just a somewhat meaner retread of the first movie, with little individual character.

    Winner was, indeed, a talented journeyman director for the first part of his career. DEATH WISH 3 was either a surreal masterpiece or a disastrous embarrassment, but however one chooses to interpret it, it marked the end of his time as an interesting director.

  2. You may be unsurprised to know that I am really looking forward to the third movie now, hahaha. Thanks for the replay and for the read.