Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Death Wish II (1982)

Despite my hopes of some trashy amoral action packed fun, Death Wish II is a joyless test of the viewer's patience. The star (Charles Bronson) and director (Michael Winner) can do better, certainly in the context of the vigilante genre, as shown in the first film of the franchise.

In the first Death Wish, Paul Kersey (Bronson) hunted down the scummiest scum of New York City, following the murder of his wife and rape of his daughter Carol. Now, several years later, he is working as an architect in Los Angeles, and living with Carol and new girlfriend Geri Nichols (Jill Ireland). After chasing down a gang who stole his wallet, Kersey finds himself followed back to his apartment by his attackers. The gang proceed to beat him unconscious, rape his Mexican housekeeper and kidnap his daughter, who falls to her death trying to escape. For Kersey, that leaves only one course of action - pick up his gun and hunt them down, one scumbag at a time.

The original Death Wish was a slickly made piece of emotional manipulation, which at least kept the viewer interested and tried to provide some justification for Kersey's actions. Here, nobody seems that bothered about putting that much thought into the script, or the direction (making violence boring is an art, but not one to be admired)

The real surprise and disappointment is the star of the film. Bronson, while never in the slightest bit convincing as an architect, is one of the great movie tough guys, with genuine screen presence and charisma, at his best when exuding an impassive and implacable sense of purpose and menace. Here he just looks stiff and dull, a robot going through the motions.

By having the gang made up of scum of different ethnic backgrounds, Winner does go some way to offsetting charges of racism, but there is no getting away from the unpleasant treatment of women. They only exist to be abused by men or to provide reasons for the men to act, although this is not an unusual situation for this genre.