Monday, 8 March 2010

Death Wish 2

DEATH WISH 2 (1982)

Directed by: Michael Winner
Screenplay: Brian Engelbach
Starring: Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland, Vincent Gardenia

Subtlety was never one of Michael Winner’s strong points and is completely absent in this lurid, sleazy, ultra violent follow up to his and Bronson’s 70s vigilante classic, Death Wish. While it borders on tipping into full blown camp and absurdity (which further follow up Death Wish 3 did with wild and entertaining abandonment) Death Wish 2, despite a little dated, still shocks and shows little mercy in its scenes of violence and abuse. Not much is different here from the first go around, just bigger, louder and more in your face. Bronson’s architect by day, vigilante by night Paul Kersey has left New York and relocated to Los Angeles. But it’s just another city full of scumbags who break into his house, rape and kill his housekeeper then kidnap his daughter and do the same to her. So what does Kersey do? Buys a bunch of guns and goes on a one man warpath to settle the score.

No real time for character interaction or development or pondering the pros and cons of vigilantism and even less spared to delve into the social problems that cause violence to erupt so viciously in modern inner city areas: Winner’s film is about getting to the next violent justice serving action scene as quickly as possible. Winner’s style here is all efficiency; scenes shot and cut to make a point quick, no time for dwelling or underlying meaning. For example, Kersey’s mourning for the loss of his daughter constitutes one brief scene of him escaping to a friend’s cabin in the country and getting angry chopping wood. It lasts all of a half a minute and we know he is angry, hurt and ready to dish out revenge because he has chopped some wood in a very angry way. Thus, it is down to business and Winner delivers what most people have come to see the film for and no doubt what the producers wanted: sleaze and action.

For a fairly mainstream movie, Death Wish 2 is a hard watch when it comes to the rape and abuse scenes. Not much is really spared or left to the imagination and Winner perhaps lets his camera leer a little too long on these scenes. The violence is graphic too, no gun shot wound spared, every violent punk getting their just desserts and Kersey’s daughter graphically impaling herself on a fence railing after being raped. Not happy stuff. However, Winner does manage to craft some excellent action scenes, arguably the best out of all the Death Wish films. Here he allows the scenes to play out, sustains the tension and packs them full of firepower. Kersey taking out some goons attacking an innocent couple is a well staged shootout, Bronson effectively using a concrete pillar as cover. Likewise the capture of one of the main villains is an audaciously over-the-top fight that sees him taking out cop after cop in a massive street brawl. Winner certainly knew how to stage action.

Not exactly a fun time and probably the most brutal of the Death Wish films, Death Wish 2 serves as a curio time capsule of how they used to make action pictures viciously violent back in the 1980s. Also look out for Laurence Fishburne in an early role as one of the punks Bronson has to take down.

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