Sunday, 5 August 2012



The trouble with a sequel to Death Wish is that the first movie didn't have anywhere left to go, so it ends up as exactly the same film again but in a different city. It's not enough of a sequel as it's basically just a remake - whatever we saw in the first movie, we see again, pretty much beat for beat and only the scenery is different. Except that with the familiarity comes a loss of any suspense: while the first film was about an upstanding and respectable family man who becomes a murderer to avenge himself and to wash the garbage off the streets of New York, this second one is just about a man who does it again. While Death Wish might have asked uneasy questions about the public fighting back against an ineffective police force and a justice system loaded absurdly in favour of the criminals, the followup has nothing on its mind but the vicarious thrill of seeing the worthless dregs of society getting what's coming to them.

Some years after the events of Death Wish, Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) has now relocated to Los Angeles, is dating news reporter Geri (Jill Ireland) and is looking after his still-catatonic daughter. But again a gang of street punks break into his home: they rape and kill his housekeeper and abduct his daughter. When she's found dead, Kersey doesn't even give the police a chance to capture the gang: he immediately heads downtown to the grimiest slum hotel he can find and locates the killers apparently through no clever or more ingenious method than just walking the streets until he spots them in a doorway or interrupts them in mid-assault.

Replacing Paul Kersey's character arc of regular citizen to merciless killer with a flatline, Death Wish II's appeal is all in the pandering to unthinking bloodlust (the British DVD is still cut, though apparently not by the BBFC to judge from their website; it appears they were happy with the submitted pre-cut version). It has no subtlety, no depth and no humour (it is a Michael Winner film, after all) and it doesn't even pretend to look at the other side of the vigilantism issue. What it does have going for it is the effortless charisma and screen presence of Charles Bronson in probably his most iconic role: a proper movie star from the days when movie stars were rugged and battered Real Men. That's not enough, though. Nor is an early appearance by Laurence/Larry Fishburne as one of the scumbags. And it's all got to contend with a horrible score by Jimmy Page. Bronson's great, and the movie is probably more slickly put together than the original, but that's about all.



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