The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Death Wish 2 (1982)

Photobucket

This movie has been the subject of much vituperative discussion. Just a look at our friend Kenner's Movies in the Attic review of the Death Wish series, and you'll see he has this as Bronson's worst ever. Ouch! And in the comments section to Death Wish, it was nearly unanimous, of all the sequels, two was the worst. Let's see if it lived up to the hype.

Death Wish 2 picks up six years or so after part one, and finds Charles Bronson back as Paul Kersey, now living in LA with a hot girlfriend and his daughter improving at an area mental health hospital. All that changes though, when some thugs lift his wallet, and he chases one down and beats him up. That guy goes back to his friends, and they decide to go back to Kersey's house, brutally rape his maid, then kill her, beat Kersey, and kidnap his daughter, whom they rape back at their hideout, and she dies trying to escape them. Well, that was all ol' Kersey needed to get his gun and get his revenge, which he does, hunting them all down. At the same time, the NYPD finds out Kersey is up to his old tricks, and they send Vincent Gardenia out to LA in order to stop him, fearing Kersey'll lead the LAPD back to New York, and the NYPD will be revealed as having let him go.

Photobucket

This is definitely lacking. It feels like it's trying to be a bigger, badder version of its predecessor, but never quite gets there. There's also the muddled situation with Gardenia, where he essentially flies all the way out from New York only to be shot by some thugs in a gunfight. Ultimately though, this suffers from us as an audience having to wonder, when is enough enough? Killing his catatonic daughter just as she's starting to get better? But then the way she dies is kind of comical, after a really bad rape scene, so all that together has me wondering where I'm supposed to go. Despite all this it still had its moments. Bronson was Bronson, and no matter what, he's compelling to watch, especially when he's killing bad guys. Other than the odd Gardenia element, after the daughter dies, this does hit a pretty decent stride, with an almost Batman-esque quality to it, where he's hiding his behavior from the people in his life. I don't know, I'm not ready to kill this yet, and I think it's worth checking out if you're a Bronson fan.

It got me thinking: how could this have been better? Where do I think they could've rectified the things they did wrong? First and foremost, leave the damn daughter out of it. In fact, add some depth by keeping her alive and improving while he's out there doing his Death Wish stuff. I even thought about the scenario where he's only mugged, and there's no home invasion, and he still goes out and kills all the guys. Now that adds some new layers, and we have to wonder if we can root for Bronson or not. In that scenario, we keep Gardenia in it more, right? We wonder what side he should be taking, because Bronson is not so clearly in the right this time. Maybe the maid rape comes later on in the film, with the thugs going to her to get back at him. I think there were a lot of places this could've gone with the Death Wish story that would've made it better than what we got.

Photobucket

Bronson keeps this movie from being a total dud for me. I can understand having issues with the way his character was treated, because I had those issues too, but there's something about seeing Bronson in cold-blooded revenge mode that is awesome. I also understand that, compared with some of his other stuff, this may not stand up, but I'll watch Bronson's bad stuff more than I'll watch a lot of other actors' good stuff, because, as I can attest with this one, his bad stuff isn't always that bad.

That's big Larry Fishburne there in some pink Pizza Hut shades-- though I guess in 1982 that was before the Pizza Hut/Back to the Future II promotional campaign. He's in this slightly more than Jeff Goldblum was in part 1, but like Goldblum, also playing one of the thugs that attacks his family. He just turned 50 this past summer, but it seems like he's only gotten better as an actor with age-- or maybe he's always been this good, but only been given the good parts as he got older. Either way, Laurence Fishburne: good stuff.

Photobucket

I had to include a PBR photo. I've always been a big PBR drinker, which I know draws some gasps and eye rolls, because it's the hallmark of... the Hipster! Maybe I should give a brief history of my PBR love affair in order to clear up any confusion. Growing up, my father was only allotted so much money per week on beer, so often PBR was a great choice because of its value. I took that knowledge with me to college, where I was often mocked for my taste in "bad beers", but the way I saw it, I couldn't afford to drink anything else, other than maybe 40s, but $3.50 for a pack of pounders makes even a 40 a tough sell. Anyway, so time goes on, I graduate from college but am still broke and drinking PBRs, and I start seeing in magazines like GQ that PBR has become big in trendy parts of New York, in come cases going for as much as $6 a can. Enter the Hipsters. Now it's gone from "PBR, eww, how can you drink that?" to "PBR, eww, what're you, a Hipster?" Sometimes you can't win for losing, but I've decided I don't care what people think, I'll drink what I want, and what I want is Pabst Blue Ribbon.

All right, enough about my beer choices and Hipsters, let's wrap this up. Though nowhere near as good as the first 1, and in some cases a little too mean spirited and all over the place, it's still a Bronson revenge flick, and on that score for me, it still works. You may feel differently.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082250/

9 comments:

  1. Good review. I feel that if you can get past the first twenty minutes, it's not that bad a ride. UI like your idea of keeping the daughter alive. Too bad Michael Winner isn't anything close to being that subtle.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good review! Thought this was a decent sequel. I guess when they made 3,4,5, they just threw everything but the kitchen sink.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm in total agreement with both of you guys. Once Death Wish 2 hits his stride, it's not that bad; and definitely, 3-5 are more your classic Cannon Golan-Globus style flicks.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I don't mind this one. I think they tried to have a different point than the first one, while cleaving too closely to the formula of the original.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yeah Death Wish 2 is basically like Rocky 2 where everything that happened in the last movie basically happens again, but it's forgiveable because of the enormous amount of good will generated from the first movie.

    I think the best element from 2 is the fact that he checked into a fleabag hotel and operated his vigilantism from there. I only wish that concept had been expanded a bit more. I also like how Charles Cyphers gave him a head start before he rang the alarm, which showed how the general public were mostly on Kersey's side. Again; this is something I would've liked to seen more of from Part 2, but it still works well enough for the most part.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Can't understand why people hate this movie? I think it's the best of the bunch. It's sleazy, gritty and nasty (everything a good 'vigilante' movie should be)
    Oh...and the Jimmy Page OST rocks!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Totally loved the rant on bad beer becoming hipster beer. I've seen that first hand myself over here. Coronas? Really?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Yeah, I loved the Jimmy Page myself-- I think I forgot to mention that in the post, but did mention it on the Facebook page. I agree, I'm not so sure this is as bad as everyone says either. I liked 1 and 3 better, but I can see where 2 would be up there for you.

    See, I like Coronas too, but it's just one of those things, where I don't drink them to be cool (see Fast and the Furious), I just kind of dig them with some lime and salt, especially with Mexican food. I have to think in Australia they don't taste as good though, and maybe you don't have the Mexican cultural influence as well, which would make them stand out as trendy and obnoxious. As an aside, we used to do a lot of Foster's over here.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I agree Glen, this couldn't decide whether it wanted to be its own thing, or base it too much on the first.

    And I like that metaphor VideoVacuum of Rocky 2, though as Glen said, this tried to be its own thing, just couldn't seem to make it work. And I agree too that that fleabag motel aspect should've been developed more, it added a Batman element that could've been a great jumping off point.

    ReplyDelete