DEATH WISH 2
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
After facing off against the punks that assaulted his family, Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) took to the streets to fight crime on his own in “Death Wish.” In the film’s first sequel “Death Wish 2,” Kersey moves to Los Angeles to try and start over. However, when a group of punks attack his family at home, which results in the rape and murder of his housekeeper and his daughter, Kersey goes on a rampage again.
I was too young to see any of the “Death Wish” movies in theaters. While they seem somewhat tame by today’s standards, these were the taboo treat back in the 70s and 80s. It was also a frustrated society’s cathartic response to the violence seen either in person on the streets or just on the television news.
Derided by critics of the day for being too violent and exploitative, the “Death Wish” films were a way America was working through some of its issues. Even today, with crime still a problem (as it always will be), these are movies that allow us to vicariously seek revenge on the strawman punks (including one played by a relatively young and lesser-known Laurence Fishburne).
“Death Wish 2” is still a person movie for the character of Paul Kersey, particularly because his daughter (who had narrowly escaped death in the first film) becomes the ultimate victim here. However, this film becomes even more personal for the character because he actually goes after the people who committed the crime whereas he just went after criminals in the first film.
While still an exploitation film, “Death Wish 2” is a personal story for the character, and a tragic one. Everything that Paul Kersey touches is eventually destroyed, and people are better off not knowing him, lest they fall victim to the violent acts that plague his life. It’s the last of the lower-key “Death Wish” movies, showing character development, even if it is not terribly well done.
Bronson is distinguished in this film from other tough guys of the 80s because of his age and his less intimidating physical presence. He’s no martial artist, and he’s not a muscle-bound body builder. Instead, he’s relentless with a gun and draws a clear line with his convictions.
“Death Wish 2” has a different context today, 30 years after it was made. With a wider media and more virtual connectivity, as well as more awareness of crime and tools at hand to protect yourself, it’s still a strong, visceral experience that is not always comfortable to watch but damned pleasing to watch as the bad guys get what’s coming to them.
The new Blu-ray comes with no special features aside from the original theatrical trailer.