|Death Wish II
1982 - R - 88 Mins.
|Director: Michael Winner
|Producer: Menahem Golan, Yoram Globus
|Written By: David Engelbach
|Starring: Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland, Vincent Gardenia, J.D. Cannon, Anthony Franciosa
|Review by: Jake Cremins
Among bad sequels to good movies, 'Death Wish II' stands alone. This is a real piece of work. It's obvious that it was made only to milk money from the success of the first film, but that's no great surprise; 'Jaws 2' didn't seem to be borne of an urgent creative desire. What is a surprise--what's really appalling about this movie--is the way the filmmakers don't even pretend they have any new ideas, and cynically pour on violence, any violence, so that we won't get bored. How stupid and depraved the filmmakers assume we must be, that we would be entertained by such trash.
I hope you like this image, because 80% of the movie looks just like it.
The real tragedy is that this could have been as fascinating as the first movie. In that one Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) started out as a mild-mannered liberal, was struck by tragedy, and became a crazed vigilante. Bronson's performance was so good that we believed every step of this journey, and by the end the movie was singularly unsettling. So it's eight years later: what has he been doing with himself? Did leaving New York snap him out of this downward spiral, or has he been stewing in his own juices, ready to explode?
Nobody who made this movie cared. Instead of genuinely trying to continue the story of the first film, they've just shipped Kersey out to Los Angeles so that a different gang of punks can rape and murder his maid and still-catatonic daughter. (The maid is so obviously there to be raped and murdered that it's uncomfortable just watching her walk around in her first scene.) Kersey considers the situation for about ten seconds, gets out his gun and starts blasting the scum off the streets. That this might be a problem--that, for instance, it might even interfere with his relationship with his girlfriend--apparently actually didn't occur to anybody.
This movie is sick. It doesn't care whose head is getting blown off or why, as long as it's happening. Any scene not involving beatings, rape, shootings, stabbings or other swell stuff is rushed through as quickly as possible to get back to the same. The plot is an indifferent collection of events ripped off from the first movie, shown more or less at random. They even invent an excuse for Inspector Ochoa (Vincent Gardenia) to travel three thousand miles from New York so he can follow Kersey around in his car, like he did in the first movie. (I missed what the excuse was.) As we're wondering what the purpose of *that* could possibly be, we then find out, and let me tell you that I can't remember a more tastless, cynical, unimaginative reason to include a supporting character in a movie.
The plot is so poorly put together that it soon becomes, by any stretch of logic, impossible. This time, for instance, Kersey actually gets revenge on the very criminals who did the deed, putting into action a brilliant plan that entails walking around Los Angeles at night and hoping to run into them. He does this successfully, in what looks like less than a week. The criminals themselves are laughably unbelievable, committing every crime under the sun at every possible moment, until we realize that the screenplay has forgotten that people actually *sleep* sometimes, you know.
Moronic screenplays like this are a crime against their actors. Bronson deserves better, Gardenia deserves better, we deserve better. Jill Ireland, who is married to Bronson in real life, deserves better too; she's barely been in anything that hasn't starred her husband, but to my surprise she was a genuinely good actress, with an engaging sweetness and intelligence. More's the pity. Her big scene comes near the end, when she puts two and two together and asks Bronson what he's been doing nights; this would be the dramatic climax in any competent movie, but here is written and directed so indifferently that my jaw actually fell open.
If you make it to the ending, consider that it is more or less the same ending as in the first movie, but that this time it's treated as a happy one. Critics called the first film "fascist," but I didn't agree; I thought that we were supposed to be repulsed by the main character's descent into violence. This movie is fascist, if indeed it has a viewpoint at all.